Alan Stubbs admitted he wanted to throttle Jason Cummings after his spot-kick stupidity cost Hibernian a chance to take the lead at Hampden yesterday. But, despite his disgust at the effort his striker dinked over the bar, the Championship gaffer insisted he never contemplated leaving him out of the line-up when the semi-final eventually boiled down to a penalty shoot-out.
“I wanted to strangle him! I went to the toilet and when I go in, even at Easter Road, I normally hear a cheer, but I heard a groan as I was coming out and I knew he had missed. I didn’t know how he had missed but when I got back to the bench, a few of the lads were shaking their heads and said he tried to dink him and dinked the ball over.
“If he practises them in training and he has done that type of penalty before then fair enough but I will be telling him ‘don’t you ever do that in semi-finals or finals’. OK, if it goes in then everyone is talking about what a quality finish it is and how cool and calm he is but when it doesn’t people can say he looked stupid.”
But with both teams drawing a blank following 120 minutes of play and some goalkeeping heroics by stand-in keeper Conrad Logan, the Leith side secured a place in their second major cup final of the season on penalties.
One of those to step forward was Cummings. Stubbs always expected he would, despite the fact he said the miss had affected him during the game. “No, if he had said no then my jaw would have dropped. I would have been completely surprised. Nothing fazes him that much, he is some boy.
“He has bundles of personality and character and it takes a certain type to take a penalty. I have seen experienced, 35-year-old players, who have played in the Premiership, but as soon as it’s penalties, they quake in their boots. It takes a certain type to take penalties.
“The only thing I was maybe concerned about was the fact he was starting to cramp up towards the end and that was my only concern but he is that type of character that as soon as you put two posts and a net in front of him, he comes alive and not for one second after the whistle had gone did I think he wasn’t going to take a penalty. It would have been something if he had tried to dink it again but I think he realised after the first one.”
Even for someone as ballsy as the Scotland Under-21 star, that might have been too much,
“As a young player he will keep improving because now he will have learned from that experience,” said Stubbs, “It will make him better and help him make better decisions.”
“That kind of penalty is pretty good, you have to be brave to do it, so all credit to Cummings for trying, but I was delighted it went over the bar,” said United manager Mixu Paatelainen, who has also had a stab at a Panenka-style penalty in the past. But he was unhappy he was given that opportunity and then a second attempt to tie things up at the end.
“I’d need to see the decision again but we made a good tackle prior to that and had a chance to clear the lines but we dwelt on it and it was us to blame in that situation. I can’t fault anyone’s effort though.
“I’m gutted for the boys. The vast majority of the match we were the better team, we controlled the game, passed the ball, created goalscoring opportunities. So in the end to lose it after penalties is disappointing.
“But if you are one-on-one with the goalkeeper three times you’d like to think at least one goes in the net – so all credit to their goalkeeper.”