DANNY HANDLING has admitted he tore a strip off his Hibs team-mates after their failure to beat St Mirren left Raith Rovers facing a nerve-shredding battle for Championship survival.
Unable to get himself into the Easter Road side after coming back from injury, Handling moved to Raith on an emergency loan in March to bolster the Kirkcaldy club’s scrap against relegation.
At one point on Saturday, as they fought to an against-the-odds 2-1 win against Ayr United, the Stark’s Park outfit were safe.
But St Mirren’s comeback against Hibs consigned Rovers to the play-offs and Wednesday night’s semi-final first-leg against Brechin City at Glebe Park.
Handling has revealed he spoke with his Hibs pals before Saturday’s game to ensure they knew just what was at stake for him and his Raith colleagues.
However, the hopes he harboured of them doing the Fifers a favour evaporated on a final day of drama.
He said: “I spoke to a few of the Hibs boys before the game and after the game.
“They obviously knew the situation we were in but they didn’t have anything to play for, their season was over.
“So, we weren’t really expecting much. We knew St Mirren could go there and get something, and that’s what happened.
“We tried our best to do what we could do, but we didn’t have luck on our side.
“I spoke to Marvin Bartley after the game and gave him a few aggressive words.
“But it was all friendly banter.
“The situation we’re in has not just been down to the last couple of games, it’s been the whole season the team’s not been good enough.
“But to win our game and then find out that Hibs had drawn at home was gutting.”
With the club’s Championship future now very firmly on the line, and no-one else to rely on but themselves, manager John Hughes has sensed a determination in his squad ahead of tonight’s first-leg.
And Handling, who insists “I’ve not been as happy as this for a long time in football” after getting a run of matches for the first time in years, believes everyone is up for the fight.
The 23-year-old said: “There’s no getting away from it, we’re in it now and we can’t get out of the situation unless we win these games.
“We’ve got to embrace it and try to enjoy it, but we know it’s going to be a battle.
“We had a very bad start on Saturday but, to win the game with 10 men, just shows the spirit we’ve got and what we’re willing to do to get the club where it belongs.”