BY DARREN JOHNSTONE @CCP_Sport
Hibs head coach Alan Stubbs paid tribute to his players after the Leith outfit moved level with Rangers at the Championship summit following a controversial late victory over Queen of the South.
Just hours after Rangers slipped up in a lunch-time defeat at Falkirk, Dominique Malonga headed in a 94th minute winner to spark fevered scenes of celebration at Easter Road.
But Queens were left fuming at the manner which they conceded after Kyle Hutton was waiting to get back on the pitch after receiving a bang to the head.
And they were also left bewildered by referee Brian Colvin’s decision to hand back possession to Hibs for the restart, with that move leading to Malonga’s goal.
Ahead of next Monday’s mouth-watering top of the table clash at Ibrox, Stubbs, whose team remain second on goal difference, lavished praise on his team’s never-say die-attitude.
He said: “It’s a huge win for us. Next week will take care of itself and we’re looking forward to it.
“We’re there and we’re not going away, people might start to believe us now.
“Looking at the table will probably give them a bit of feel good factor.
“We’re in a fantastic position, they deserve a lot of credit for the effort they’ve put in to give ourselves a platform to challenge.
“At one point we were potentially going to go 11 points behind them and now we’re level, that speaks volumes for the players we’ve got.”
Stubbs was smiling but Queens boss James Fowler was furious over the build up to the decisive goal.
He said: “Kyle Hutton gets a knock on the face and does not want to come off.
“The ref goes to restart play and having seen it back it looks like he rolls the ball in Liam Fontaine’s path.
“It’s frustrating because I thought we played really well. Hibs are flying but we came with a game plan and played with two up.
“The way the game ended, you could see the frustration from the players and the staff.”
Buoyed by events at Falkirk in the lunch-time kick-off, Hibs were quick out of the blocks and should have gone in front after 11 minutes when the unmarked James Keatings headed a Liam Henderson cross wide from six yards.
But they failed to build on that encouraging start and Queens more than contributed to an end-to-end match.
The arrival of substitutes Malonga and Henir Anier in the 67th minute sparked Hibs into action but the home fans had to wait until four minutes into injury time for the winning goal.
David Gray showed great energy to race down the touchline and his teasing cross was headed in by the Congo internationalist.