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Gordon Smith: Pressure’s on Hibs and not Dundee United in Scottish Cup tie

Hibs manager Alan Stubbs (SNS Group)
Hibs manager Alan Stubbs (SNS Group)

Prior to Martin Boyle’s wonder strike that gave them victory against Livingston last Tuesday, the Easter Road side had picked up just a single point from their last 15 in the Championship.

From a group of players who have beaten FIVE Premiership teams – Hearts, St Johnstone, Aberdeen, Inverness CT and United themselves already this season – that is an alarming slump.

The kind of form, in fact, which brings into question whether they have any credible chance of winning promotion via the play-offs this year.

No one connected with the club will need any reminders of the crushing disappointment felt at the end of last season when their bid to return to the Premiership at the first time of asking spluttered to a halt against a Rangers team who were then comfortably beaten by Motherwell.

Likewise, that the financial implications of another year outside the top tier are liable to be severe.

Yet to understate the importance to Hibs of a shot at reaching the Scottish Cup Final is to disregard history.

This, remember, is the competition they have not won since 1902.

And if many have grown tired of hearing that statistic, it doesn’t change the fact that the current group of players have the chance to become club legends by ending a 114-year wait to bring the famous old trophy back to Easter Road.

The celebrations which would accompany such a success, and the attention it would bring, makes Saturday’s tie a very big deal indeed for Alan Stubbs and his men.

The same doesn’t hold true for Dundee United.

Scottish Cup winners as recently as 2010, and before that in 1994, the Tangerines probably would trade defeat at the National Stadium for a guarantee of retaining their place in the Premiership.

They are not relegated yet. The chance still remains for them to clamber out of bottom place, especially because their final few matches will be against the teams around them in the table.

If relegation was determined by results between now and the final day of the season, they would probably be okay. What we are dealing with, though, is not a race at level weights but a handicap chase.

The question is whether they can do enough to claw back the deficit that is the legacy of a desperate start to the season under the charge of previous manager, Jackie McNamara.

Funnily enough, I expect United to win on Saturday.

The reason for that is because the match will matter less to them than it will to their opponents.

The pressure will be off, it will be a break from the norm, and their flair players will be able to express themselves.

From that platform, United can get the goals that will leave Hibs to add another year to their Scottish Cup famine.


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