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St Johnstone boss makes Hibs favourites

Tommy Wright.
Tommy Wright.

Hibs are the League Cup semi-final favourites, according to St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright.

Even though the Hamilton game is the only one of Saints’ recent run of six without a victory that concerned him, the Perth boss believes the Easter Road side’s winning habit justifies the bookmakers faith in them to go through to the final.

“Hibs are favourites in my mind because of their recent results,” he said.

“Although I’ve been happy enough with our performances, apart from the Hamilton one, we have not been picking up wins.

“Hibs are winning games, they are on a good run and are in a better vein of form than we are.

“Hibs are a huge club and they are doing really well at the moment so it’s going to be a tough game.

“I don’t know how much bigger Alan’s (Stubbs) budget is than mine but it will be bigger, there’s no doubt about that.

“He’s been able to bring in five players, including a proven goalscorer like Anthony Stokes, during this transfer window, which is something there’s no way we could do.

“We won’t be bringing in anyone before Saturday’s game. It would have been nice but we just can’t do it.”

Wright isn’t a fan of the drawn-out nature of the League Cup, but the long gap between the quarter-final and the semi has helped in one regard.

“The thing about the League Cup is that you get plenty of time to watch the opposition,” he explained.

“It probably isn’t ideal that the game is so close to the end of the transfer window and I know my chairman thinks that.

“Personally I think the competition should be condensed and finished before Christmas, but we don’t make those decisions.

“We have watched a lot of Hibs, in the flesh and on video. We know how they play and will be well prepared.

“In these games a lot of it is down to who plays best on the day.

“We found that out the last time we were at Tynecastle in a semi-final when we lost to Aberdeen because we didn’t start the game well enough.

“But we learned from that and this week we’ll be focused on trying to find weaknesses in Hibs to exploit.”

It will make a pleasant change for Wright and his team to not have to field question after question on St Johnstone’s woeful semi-final record. The Stevie May-inspired victory over Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup saw to that.

And the Northern Irishman is hoping their new-found last four success will be a positive factor in Saturday’s encounter.

“Winning the Scottish Cup semi-final and then the final takes the pressure off the players because they have had success in recent years,” he said.

“So from that point of view it’s good, because they are focused and motivated to want more of it.

“They want to experience it again and that drives them along, so hopefully we will be able to get more of it.

“To say it’s easier for clubs like St Johnstone and Inverness to win trophies right now undervalues the achievement of doing it.

“Of course the smaller clubs find the cups are the best chance of silverware, but you have to remember that Rangers and Celtic haven’t always won the cups.

“Cup football gives smaller teams their best chance, Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Inverness and ourselves have all proved that.”

He added: “We are going to a hotel on Friday to stay overnight because I think that’s the best way to prepare.

“Apart from that the week will be as normal as possible.

“Obviously there’s media attention that comes with being in a semi-final but apart from that nothing really changes for us.

“It’s all about just getting focused on the game and not changing things too much.”

Meanwhile, Wright feels for Saints fans who may have to miss out on the game.

“It’s disappointing that we have fans wanting to go to the game who can’t get tickets,” he said.

“There’s nothing more the club could have done, it has been out of our hands.

“It probably says something about the success we’ve had lately that we have a bigger demand for tickets.

“The club are still speaking to the SPFL so hopefully something will get resolved.”