RAITH Rovers are not alone, but they will be fed up of Jason Cummings. While Hibs are hoping to hang on to the in-form striker, there are many within the Championship who will be happy to wish him bon voyage should he be offered the chance to step up.
Hibernian - 1
Cummings pen 48
Raith Rovers - 0
The Kirkcaldy players are not the only opponents to have struggled in muffling his threat in front of goal. Three times they have faced the Leith side and three times the exuberant youngster has been a major part of their undoing.
Yesterday’s goal was his 16th of the season, his third against Ray McKinnon’s men, and it was as important as any of the previous efforts. Ultimately it was all that separated the teams over the 90 minutes and with new signing Chris Dagnall waiting for his chance to shine, it served as a timely reminder to his gaffer of his worth.
“It probably, wasn’t Jason’s best afternoon but if you look at his movement and awareness for the goal, that’s why he is hot property,” said his manager, duly noting the heads-up.
For Alan Stubbs, pictured above, the most laudable part of the day was his team’s ability to grind out the victory, though, even if the performance isn’t one that will make it into the vintage category.
The Easter Road side were marginally better than the scoreline suggests and worthy winners, but against a Raith side torn apart by injury and illness and patched up as best as it could be, the title challengers did look anxious for periods. The spark was missing, while the passing was sloppy and the movement that has often allowed them to carve open sides with ease throughout this campaign was almost a second thought and they spent the first half in particular on the back foot. But still they managed to get the three points they desired to keep their ambitions on track.
Raising their game in the second half, they didn’t reach the standards they have set in piecing together the long unbeaten run which was halted only by that defeat at Ibrox. Unbowed by the trip to Glasgow, though, they had been intent on keeping the pressure on Mark Warburton’s men, by bouncing back from that result and, despite the enforced absence of the suspended Fraser Fyvie, the assumption was that Raith Rovers would feel the backlash. They did but it was a bit of a slap rather than a full-on body slam into submission.
“I think the most important thing is that we did get there,” said Stubbs. “All credit to Ray and his team, they made it really difficult for us but I don’t think anyone could deny us the victory. We probably rushed things and made a couple of wrong decisions, more so in the first half, but the most important thing is that we won.”
In a scrappy first half, marred by fussy refereeing and an inability to link up effectively, neither side got a real grip on proceedings.
Hibs had the slightly more clear-cut chances but while the odd ball was zipped across goal and they poked and prodded their way around Kevin Cuthbert’s area, they were missing the killer finish.
Stubbs said he refrained from lambasting his players at half time but did give them something to ponder as they headed out more invigorated for the second-half.
“I’m not going to tell you what it was but I posed a question to them and they have answered me so I’m really pleased.
“I think a lot of people will have been looking at our game to see how we responded to last week’s defeat and I think we have answered that. Raith have come here and made it difficult for us. They got behind the ball and worked hard as a team. We created a few chances but didn’t take them and it was one of those games, where the longer it goes, a little bit of anxiety can creep in, but I thought the lads stuck to it and the goal was a great bit of play.”
The breakthrough came in the 48th minute when Liam Henderson saw Cummings’ run and played a perfect ball into the area, enticing Kyle Benedictus in to make the rash challenge. From the spot Cummings, saw his initial effort blocked and Cuthbert got a hand to the rebound but there was enough on it to see it into the net.
Raith continued to make things uncomfortable, but when Grant Anderson was sent off for a second bookable offence as the game headed into stoppage time, Hibs were able to give a sigh of relief and content themselves with the points.