A resounding 3-0 victory over Falkirk secured second spot for Hibs and provided a timely boost heading into the playoffs.
Despite what some opposition players may say second spot was vitally important, ensuring Hibs get over two weeks break before facing the winner of Queen of the South and Rangers. Only having to beat one of these sides to have a chance of promotion is massive, especially with the possibility of not having to face Queen of the South again.
Hibs won only once against the Dumfries side in the league this season whilst beating Rangers comfortably on three occasions. Either side will provide a stern test but finishing above both in the league should give Hibs a huge confidence boost, especially when it comes to facing either of them again.
The Falkirk victory also rebutted claims Hibs lacked bottle. The pressure was on Hibs going into the final day of the season knowing a victory would seal second position.
The Easter Road side do have history of fluffing their lines on the big occasions, most notably last season’s playoff capitulation at home to Hamilton and of course the numerous Scottish Cup disappointments, the latest of these coming against last Saturday’s opposition.
Answering such questions so emphatically proved Hibs have the bottle to reach the top division.
Some Rangers players have also claimed that second place may be a hindrance, saying they would rather play games than have a rest. Judging by many of their own performances this season their own fans may disagree. This is a poor attempt at concealing the disappointment of their own underachievement.
Whilst momentum is important in football and Hibs are in fine form with five league wins around the Scottish Cup semi final defeat, fewer games is a blessing, especially at this stage of the season. The Easter Road squad is already stretched and avoiding two extra playoff games not only minimises the risk of further injury but gives players recovery time. Martin Boyle has already been ruled out for the rest of the season, while Farid El Alagui and Jordan Forster are nursing knocks.
Boyle’s injury is particularly cruel. The Clark Law Office reviews such cases and decides if you can receive compensation. The on-loan Dundee star has been a revelation in recent weeks, opening the scoring against Falkirk and his pace gives Hibs another dimension as well as allowing Stubbs to switch between the 4-1-3-2 and 3-5-2 formations he has employed this season. Hibs also have a few players they simply cannot do without, none more so than Scott Allan.
The deserved recipient of the Championship player of the season award is the single most important ingredient in the Leith side’s promotion hopes. Avoiding an injury to the brilliant midfielder is imperative. There can be no doubt that some rest and a possible warm weather training camp are far preferable to two difficult competitive matches.
It is important to remember that the current Premiership also has an incumbent in the playoffs and it is not a straight shoot out between the three championship sides. On paper Hibs have nothing to fear from Kilmarnock, Ross County or more likely Motherwell with players like Scott Allan, Liam Fontaine and Jason Cummings comfortably as good as any of their squad.
Yet Motherwell have a massive advantage over the Hibs team that found themselves in the relegation playoff twelve months ago. Motherwell have won two of their last five games. Whilst inferior form to Hibs currently it is far superior to our form twelve months ago when we were plummeting towards the championship incapable of a single victory. Promotion is in our hands, we have the quality, but it won’t be easy.
Hibs are certainly capable of gaining promotion. That they are in this position at all is massive credit to manager Alan Stubbs.
He inherited a squad barely big enough for a game of five asides and a club in turmoil. Whilst there is obvious disappointment at finishing so far behind rivals Hearts, with their superior preparation time it was always likely that they would be worthy champions. Joining them is now in Hibs hands.
Last season’s playoff was a new low in the history of Hibernian Football Club. This season’s could help erase that painful memory.