ALAN Stubbs, the Hibernian manager, sidestepped questions about his own future after the Easter Road club were condemned to spending a third successive season in Scotland's second tier for the first time in their history. A 92nd minute goal from Falkirk's Bob McHugh put an end to the Easter Road club's play-off ambitions by a 5-4 aggregate scoreline, although it did give them the rare luxury of a free midweek ahead of Saturday's William Hill Scottish Cup final against Rangers. A distraught Stubbs, who has been interesting English sides Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers, said this was not the time to discuss him.

“It’s not the time to speak about that," said Stubbs. "It’s not about me really. Right now it’s about the players and the club. Since I have come in we have put things in place that will give it a better chance of progressing forward. There are real assets there, gifted young players. We will have discussions with them over the coming weeks. But I don’t see any of them necessarily wanting to leave because of what happened. If anything it will drive them forward. It’s not what we wanted, far from it. But most of the players are under contract."

The Englishman refused to pin the blame on a season where Hibs have been exposed to 53 games, nor an errant penalty decision from referee Alan Muir in the first leg which could have been a game changer. “If we start going on about that it sounds like sour grapes," he said. "We are bigger than that as a club. It was a pivotal moment but we had time to put it right.”

He said the club would be able to lift themselves for the awesome challenge of landing the Scottish Cup for the first time in 114 years. “That’s how you can lift yourself - because we still have a huge game next week," he said. "The players will have a couple of days to reflect and get this out of their system. And we’ll be back in Monday and we’ll gradually prepare them as the week goes on – and see if we can sample a high in football.

“I’m more disappointed for the players and the club as a whole," said Stubbs. "It’s a really cruel way to lose any game, but to lose it like that was really disappointing. We seemed to have grabbed hole of the game and it looked like it was drifting away from Falkirk."

A jubilant Peter Houston praised his team's continuing ability to fight to the death and said they will require more of the same if they are to overcome Kilmarnock over two legs in the final. "That will be a tough game," he said. "They are a Premiership side even though they have not had the best season. We saw them at Hamilton and showed they are capable of big results. They have guys like Boydy [Kris Boyd] who is a great finisher. We will need to be at our best to go up.

"It’s the best time to score as there’s no comeback and no chance of Hibs getting anything from the game," he added. "Admittedly they’ve got better quality than us but not as much character and desire."