Alan Stubbs is relishing the prospect of “seven cup finals” between now and 24 May as he sought to look on the bright side of finishing third in the Championship.
Hibs could not overturn a goal difference of three separating them from Falkirk. Stubbs’ side beat Queen of the South 2-0 thanks to strikes from Niklas Gunnarsson and Jason Cummings while Peter Houston’s side won 1-0 against Morton. These results leave Hibs with an extra play-off tie against Raith Rovers.
How is finishing in the play-offs failure whether you are second, third or fourth?Alan Stubbs
Hibs could now be faced with seven games in 21 days, starting with Wednesday’s trip to play Raith in the first leg of their quarter-final play-off. They also have a Scottish Cup final to play against Rangers which Stubbs hopes will be bookended by a play-off final against whoever finishes 11th in the Premiership.
Stubbs said: “We have got seven cup finals now. It is great. I said to the players at the end: this is a really exciting period. It is not pressurised. Pressure is when you are fighting relegation. When you are trying to win something, that is what you want to do as a player and coach.
“I am looking forward to it. Big games, big attitudes, big appetites. That is what we have to prepare for.”
Stubbs was quick to refute claims his side have underperformed this season, allowing Falkirk to grab second place.
“How is being in the play-offs failure whether you are second, third or fourth?” he asked. “You still get the chance of one prize. And we only missed out on second by two goals. Falkirk have done fantastic. We’re in the play-offs and two cup finals so I think that’s not bad.”
He was also circumspect about the change to the dates of the semi-final play-off next week, due to television. The games with Falkirk will now be played next Tuesday and Friday, allowing less recovery time for the quarter-final play-off victors. “It’s not ideal, but it is what it is,” he said. “It’s not going to change.”
Falkirk manager Houston praised his players’ character and reckoned finishing second tops the club reaching last year’s Scottish Cup final.
“I think it beats that because we had a favourable run to the final and this was over 36 games,” he said.
In the build-up to yesterday’s games, there was much banter and wind-up between Houston and Stubbs which the Falkirk man admitted was “pantomime”. “You always try and turn the pressure on the opposition,” he said. “I’ve talked about how many games Hibs were having to play. Alan’s talked about the pressure all being on Falkirk. I’ve tried to tell him that I had a beautiful round of golf and so can’t have been feeling too much pressure but he didn’t seem impressed with my score!
“It’s pantomime. I understand Stubbsy trying to turn it on to me. Alan was cute with Mark Warburton earlier in the season, trying to noise him up. But with me he’s got a 58-year-old guy who doesn’t get noised up quite as easily. But it’s only banter. We’ve always been able to have a cup of tea together.”