Hibs will recover to finish second, predicts Ian Murray

By Kenny CrawfordBBC Scotland

Former Hibernian and Rangers midfielder Ian Murray expects the Edinburgh side to recover their league form after the distraction of two cup campaigns.

Hibs reached the Scottish Cup semi-finals after beating holders Inverness Caledonian Thistle, three days after losing the League Cup final.

But they have slipped to third in the Scottish Championship behind Falkirk.

"Hibs are still firm favourites to get that second spot," said Murray of the race for promotion play-off spots.

Hibs are now three points behind the Bairns, although they have two games in hand, after a run of three straight league defeats allowed Rangers to establish a 14-point lead at the top of the table.

Murray, who was manager of St Mirren in the Championship until December, admits that he is surprised that Peter Houston's side have managed to keep up with Hibs.

However, he expects the Edinburgh club's larger squad and playing budget to pay dividends in the final quarter of the season.

"For Hibs to go and beat Hearts and St Johnstone in the cups and to hang on to Rangers' coat-tails was a huge, huge ask," he told BBC Scotland.

"It looked like they were doing it, which was fantastic, but obviously the league form dipped away with compensation of the cup form."

Ian Murray
Ian Murray was manager of St Mirren in the Championship

Murray thought that defeating the Premiership side 2-1 away from home in Wednesday's replay was particularly important following Sunday's defeat by the same scoreline by Caley Thistle's Highland rivals.

"It was a great way to bounce back after the disappointment of the final against Ross County," insisting that recent criticism of Hibs' form has not been over the top.

"I think losing to Morton and Dumbarton is not acceptable, but also on the flip side you need to understand they've had a really tough run of games in the last eight weeks.

"You have to add in two derbies that are obviously mentally draining as well as physically and a semi-final game against St Johnstone."

Hibs have come up short previously in their attempts to end their long wait to lift the Scottish Cup for the first time since 1902.

However, Murray said: "I think that expectation of winning it is becoming less and less just with the different generation of fans coming through.

"Even on Sunday before the League Cup final, I felt the fans in general and the atmosphere within the Hibs support was very, very relaxed in terms of 'we might win it, we might not, but we're not going to let it kill us over the next few weeks and months'.

"So that was probably refreshing to see and feel."

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