Why Hibs v Rangers is becoming reminiscent of a derby fixture

Paul Hanlon was talking about cup success slipping through Hibs’ fingers last season when he said: “The opportunities were there and we didn’t take them.”
Jack Ross has led Hibs to five successive semi-finals but has yet to defeat Rangers. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)Jack Ross has led Hibs to five successive semi-finals but has yet to defeat Rangers. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)
Jack Ross has led Hibs to five successive semi-finals but has yet to defeat Rangers. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

But the Easter Road captain could equally have been addressing the run of tight games and near misses against Rangers in recent years.

On Saturday, as the Leith side head back to Hampden for the fifth time in just over a year, they have the chance to move one step closer to exorcising one of those ghosts by finally turning coulda, shoulda, woulda performances against their Ibrox rivals into something more tangible.

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When the side’s met in early October Rangers won. But it was another slender, one-goal, winning margin and the outcome may have been different had Ryan Porteous not been sent off after just half an hour.

“In the bulk of recent games against Rangers we have been very good,” agreed manager Jack Ross.

“There’s been key moments that haven’t quite gone our way. The most recent example of that was the red card. But, we’ve had goals disallowed, red cards not given for the opposition that should have been given and were retrospectively; a lot of moments in games that could have swung things in our favour.

“Rather than do anything significantly different it’s about a lot of repetition in large parts of our performance and then believing so that key moments go your way. Ruthlessness in both boxes will be important.”

Ruthlessness, controlled passion and a determination to come out on top that is reminiscent of derby encounters, there is a feisty side to these head to heads.

“I think it has been building for a few years because we have been really competitive against them in big games,” said Hanlon. “And going back to the time when we were both in the Championship the games there were really good as well.

“It’s two teams who believe they can win and I think this game will be no different.”

That extra edge has thrown up some tasty individual battles and sparked more than a few verbal exchanges on and off the pitch.

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The latest left Hanlon’s young centre-back partner to deal with a social media backlash.

But, while no-one at Hibs liked that, they have all backed Porteous to respond in the most positive manner this weekend.

“He’s strong enough to deal with it and he has confidence in his own ability and strength that he can go into the next game and prove people wrong. That’s a great quality to have. And I think he is only going to get better, to be honest.

“A lot has been made of his sending offs but he hasn’t had many in his career.

“He has a great future and I was delighted to see him get pulled into the Scotland squad.”

That was something his manager described as the perfect vindication. And now, after idling for a number of weeks due to a covid outbreak and then the international hiatus, Hibs are bolstered by the presence of fit-again striker Christian Doidge while Rangers are in a period of managerial transition.

“We're going there to be competitive,” added Hanlon, “and, if we're playing well, we've got every chance of being in that final."

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