BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
HIBERNIAN head coach Alan Stubbs insists he should be judged on the ‘big picture’ after failing to meet expectations and lead his side to second in the Championship this season.
The Easter Road outfit passed up the opportunity to challenge Rangers for the title when they lost three consecutive games to Morton, Dumbarton and Queen of the South two months ago to kick off a damaging spell of just one victory in seven league outings.
That disappointing run, which included the devastating League Cup final defeat to Ross County, also cost Hibs the coveted runners-up spot.
It leaves Stubbs’ side needing to win an extra play-off tie if they are to achieve their goal of promotion back to the Premiership.
In contrast, Falkirk – who clinched second on goal difference – will now have the benefit of nine days’ rest before taking on either Hibs or Raith Rovers in the play-off semi-final.
However, when Stubbs was asked in the wake of Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Queen of the South whether finishing third should be seen as failure, he cited his team’s forthcoming Scottish Cup final against Rangers as evidence of this term’s ‘success’.
He said: “How is being in the play-offs failure? Whether you are second, third or fourth, you still get the chance of one prize.
“And we only missed out on second by two goals.
“Falkirk have done fantastic this season, (but) we’re in the play-offs and two cup finals so I think that’s not bad, eh?
“So if you want to judge me then judge me on the big picture.
“And I think we have done okay to get two cup finals, that would be fair to say.”
Hibs had chances over the course of Tuesday’s 4-0 win over Dumbarton and Sunday’s win against 10-man Queen of the South to claw back the eight points of goal difference they needed to leapfrog Falkirk.
However, Stubbs has tried for some weeks now to put a positive spin on finishing third, knowing that scenario was increasingly a possibility.
Having seen off Premiership quintet Aberdeen, Hearts, Inverness Caley Thistle, St Johnstone and Dundee United (twice) in impressive cup runs this season, the former Celtic defender is optimistic his players can now revel in the knock-out nature of the play-offs.
He added: “More often than not, when we’ve had big games, it’s lifted the players.
“We have got seven cup finals now. It is great.
“I said to the players at the end: ‘This is a really exciting period now’.
“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 really looking forward to it, I really am. Big games, big attitudes, big appetites – that is what we have to prepare for.”