Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson believes that Hibs’ antics in the wake of Sunday’s derby is a sign that the Easter Road side were ecstatic to escape Tynecastle with a draw.
But his counterpart’s take on the matter was somewhat different, saying he did not believe his side had milked the moment or gone overboard in their celebrations.
“The celebrations weren’t as big as what is being made out,” said Hibs head coach Alan Stubbs. “I was there and didn’t see big celebrations – I saw a group of lads happy because they got the very least they deserved.”
Having been 2-0 down in the Scottish Cup tie, the Championship side fought back to earn a replay, which will be contested in front of a sell-out crowd in Leith on Tuesday.
“We got ourselves back into the game and I personally feel we fully justified what we got out of the game,” said Stubbs. “We did very well in the last 30 minutes, supposedly. So I need to commend my team for doing that.”
Despite the dig, Stubbs’ opinion is that his men were contenders for much longer than that final half an hour and he says that having battled back from Hearts’ two clinical moments in front of goal, the Hibs men were entitled to savour the outcome, believing they have the platform to complete the job and progress to the quarter-finals of the cup where a home tie against holders Inverness Caledonian Thistle awaits.
And he seems bemused that the spotlight has been shone on his players’ celebration of that fact, especially when Hearts partied at Easter Road last term when Alim Ozturk’s late thunderbolt secured them a draw and no one inferred any major significance from their exuberation that day.
He added: “We didn’t have a problem with them celebrating their last-minute goal at Easter Road so, as I say, [people in] glass houses....
“I’d have no problem with Hearts celebrating in the same manner at Easter Road, as long as it doesn’t go over the top – thinking about fans’ safety and things like that. But I didn’t see anything untoward [on Sunday], the players went up to clap the fans from a distance – on the edge of the box – and there was nothing untoward.
“I’m happy that we got a result and whenever we get results my team can celebrate all they want. Whenever we win, and thankfully we’ve won quite a lot recently, the music goes on afterwards. Rightly so – I hope I keep hearing that music for a long time to come.”
The fact the draw is viewed as a triumph is due to it coming in a knockout competition, he said. His men, he added, go into every game looking for a victory but the cup tie remains there to be fought over. But first there is the matter of a league trip to Livingston, where another three points are needed to keep the pressure on leaders Rangers in the chase for the title and automatic promotion. On a run of just one loss in 19 league games, the Hibs boss says there have been no issues with refocusing on the bread and butter after their past highs in the cups and he expects his men to be just as focused against Livingston.
Maintaining an interest in three major competitions could be considered onerous but Stubbs views it as a positive. His men have some traction, are full of confidence and also have the momentum.
“We’re rolling from one game to another and Saturday is more important [than the derby],” he said. “The league will always take precedence over the cups, even although we are doing so well in them. The main priority is still promotion. I think the momentum this generates is great, it’s fantastic for the fans and the players just keep producing right now. It is a huge help to have so many massive games because it helps to keep their focus all the time, right on the edge. Now we are into the home straight and every game is a big game, we are vying on three fronts and it is taking care of everything.”
Dylan McGeouch and captain David Gray are expected to stake a claim for a place in tomorrow’s team, having recovered from knocks picked up in Sunday’s encounter.