HIBERNIAN manager Alan Stubbs last night hailed his players for a victory over Rangers at Ibrox he admitted owed more to substance than style.
Goals from Scott Robertson and Lewis Stevenson secured a 2-0 win for Hibs, taking them into second place in the Scottish Championship table. They are now two points above Rangers in the promotion race, albeit having played three games more.
Hibs’ third consecutive league win against Rangers this season lacked the flair or dominance which marked their 3-1 and 4-0 triumphs earlier in the campaign.
But although his team spent most of the evening on the back foot last night, Stubbs was gratified by the resolve of his players throughout what was something of a smash and grab success.
“Probably the best way to describe our performance was to say we were determined,” said Stubbs. “I knew there would be a response from Rangers after they lost to Raith Rovers in the cup last weekend and there was.
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“The Rangers players did Kenny McDowall proud in terms of the way they went about it. They looked to try and press us and put us out of our stride, which they did.
“But there was a real determination in our group and I think we saw a different way to win games tonight. We had players putting their bodies on the line making blocks. I didn’t think we played that well but I thought we showed a desire to not be beaten.
“Football is about results and teams that go on and be successful cannot play lovely football throughout the season. There are going to be times when you have to roll your sleeves up.
“It’s about getting across the line and getting out, which is literally what we’ve done here tonight. As an ex-defender that’s a performance which makes me really proud and happy. The lads at the back were fantastic and stood up to everything Rangers threw at them.
“I’d still like to be in Rangers’ position in the league, I make no bones about that.
“They have three games in hand, albeit one of them is against Hearts. We’ve got the momentum but I’d still like to have three games in hand.
“But I’ve said all along, I’m only concerned with my group and they’re doing everything I’m asking. They’re playing with a verve and a lot of confidence. They have the bit between their teeth.
“Tonight was the start of the run-in. We’re into the final third of the season and this is when the nitty-gritty starts. We need to start putting points on the table and it doesn’t matter too much about the performance. This is the stage where it’s all about results.”
Rangers caretaker manager Kenny McDowall was left to reflect on a fourth defeat in six games since he took over from Ally McCoist but he was at least heartened by the improved performance level of his team.
“It’s bitterly disappointing, I don’t think we deserved that,” said McDowall. “But that’s football and it’s the stage we are at right now. We are not getting the luck.
“But if they apply themselves like that, we won’t be far away most weeks. There is still a long way to go, so why can’t we finish above Hibs? We’ve got a good game at Raith next week which the boys are already looking forward to. If we give that kind of performance again, we won’t be far away. It’s okay saying you have got games in hand, but it’s another thing getting the points because they are tough games. The boys now know what they have to do and it sets it up nicely. I think it will go the distance.
“It is nice that we are making chances again, first of all. I just think it’s a matter of time before we get a wee bit of luck in front of goal. We seem to be getting punished at the other end, because I don’t think Hibs had too much at our goal tonight.
“I believe we should have had a penalty just before their second goal, but I’ve not seen it again yet. I’ve been told it was a penalty, but it doesn’t matter now. We just have to get back to winning ways first of all.”