HIBS host Falkirk tonight in the first leg of their play-off semi-final as they seek to reclaim their top-flight place after two seasons in the Championship.

They do so against a background of continuing speculation linking manager Alan Stubbs with a return to Bolton Wanderers where he spent six years as a player.

Reports on Sunday suggested that the former Celtic player was being considered for the Bolton vacancy to replace another former Celt, Neil Lennon.

Following his impressive two-year stint in Edinburgh, especially this season in which they have made two cup finals, Stubbs is undoubtedly in demand, but he insists he still has work to do with the Leith side.

Asked about the rumours he was being lined up as Neil Lennon’s replacement at the Macron Stadium, Stubbs told reporters yesterday: “It is the same kind of thing that was linking me to jobs earlier on this season. It is what it is – speculation.

“If someone leaves a job, then there is always going to be talk about who is going to fill that job.

“I can assure you, however, that my focus is purely on one thing and that’s tomorrow’s game – not what is on the back page of a paper.

“It doesn’t affect me. There could be speculation linking me with clubs from Monday to Friday and it wouldn’t matter one jot.

“I’ve got a year left on my contract and until I’m told otherwise, that’s the way it is. I’m not thinking next week, never mind next season. I don’t want to wish my life away.”

Hibs battled past Raith Rovers in the quarter-finals at the weekend but looked to be tiring in the final stages as they held on for a 2-1 aggregate win at Easter Road on Saturday.

Stubbs is adamant, however, that fatigue is not an issue for his team.

“As a player there is nothing better than winning games,” he said. “It helps you to recover from match to match very quickly.

“The players know exactly what is at stake in the games to come.

“When you have that in front of you, I can assure you that tiredness is not an issue.

“If we don’t go up there will be other reasons for it but it certainly won’t be because of tiredness.”

The Easter Road side will be without long-term absentees Danny Carmichael (groin) and Farid El Alagui (hamstring) for their clash with the Bairns but Stubbs expects a difficult encounter regardless of the side he puts out.

Of the teams’ four meetings this season, Hibs managed a narrow 1-0 win in October with the three remaining meetings all ending in stalemate.

“It is going to be two tough games for both teams and we both know it,” said Stubbs. “We’re just hoping we’re going to be the side who prevail and come through the tie.

Falkirk boss Peter Houston – who will be without Peter Grant (knee) and Connor McGrandles (broken leg) – reckons that nothing will be decided in this first meeting.

He said: “There was nothing between ourselves and Hibs in the league this season and I expect that play-off matches to be very tight as well. We have had a rest whereas Hibs experienced the high of coming back and beating Raith Rovers at the weekend so there is no right or wrong way to prepare.

“We will attack but Sunday’s game will be needed to separate us,” Stubbs concluded.