BY DARREN JOHNSTONE @CCP_Sport
Hibs head coach Alan Stubbs insists his team have been playing so well that he has not dropped a player due to loss of form for over three months.
The Leith outfit’s 17-game unbeaten run came to a shuddering halt in a 4-2 defeat to Championship title rivals Rangers at the tail end of last month.
Stubbs made three changes as his side bounced back with a narrow 1-0 victory over Raith Rovers at the weekend.
Liam Fontaine, Marvin Bartley and Dom Malonga replaced Darren McGregor, Fraser Fyvie and James Keatings.
But Stubbs, whose side take on Raith Rovers again on Saturday in a Scottish Cup tie in Kirkcaldy, insists the trio were not being punished for their performance at Ibrox.
He said: “Because we’ve got such a strong squad, a lot of the times when I do change it, it’s not because of loss of form or poor performances, it’s because I need to make sure everybody stays fit throughout the whole season.
“I’m hoping it’s going to be a long, successful season and in order to do that we have to try and rotate the squad and manage it the best we can.
“That was the reason, none of the reasons over the last three or four months have been through loss of form.
“It’s just because, one: I have to make a decision as a manager to go with a certain team for the game, and two is that we are trying to manage them.
“Sometimes players have a little niggle or a little bit of tiredness. The fact we have such a healthy and strong squad, it gives me the options to make changes.”
Bartley made his first outing in six weeks on Saturday after being hampered by a back problem and Stubbs is keen for the former Bournemouth and Burnley to express himself in the final third rather than solely being a midfield ‘destroyer’.
Stubbs added: “It’s where we want him, we don’t want him just sitting in front of the back four patrolling things.
“Marv likes to call himself the enforcer, the destroyer and I’m sure he won’t thank me for saying that.
“It’s good to see him back, he had a little back spasm which took a bit longer.”