LEIGH GRIFFITHS took his goals tally for the season to a record-breaking 22 with a glory hat-trick at Kilmarnock as he fired Hibs into the semi-finals of the William Hill Scottish Cup before warning: “There’s plenty more to come.”
The on-fire Easter Road striker made it seven goals in five matches with his first senior hat-trick as he sent a huge travelling support of some 4000 Hibs fans behind Killie goalkeeper Cammy Bell’s goal into ecstasy as he secured a 4-2 win for Pat Fenlon’s side.
Griffiths had opened the scoring after just 15 minutes, a strike cancelled out by James Dayton before Matt Done, with his first goal for Hibs, putting the Capital outfit ahead again only for a Paul Heffernan penalty to level the match once more. But Griffiths struck twice more in the final ten minutes, leaving Fenlon to wax lyrical about his “special player”, the Hibs boss saying: “Leigh has a talent that is very difficult to tie down. Even if you take the goals out of it, his movement and his ability to work defenders is different class.”
For Griffiths, a lifelong Hibs fan, it was a day he admitted he’ll never forget. The on-loan Wolves hitman said: “I cannot believe it. It was my first hat-trick in professional football. To score a hat-trick is good, but to get it in the quarter-final of the Scottish Cup is magnificent, I’ll never forget it.”
And Griffiths warned SPL defenders he’s not finished yet. He said: “I scored 21 with Livingston in the First Division, now I have 22. I have a target in mind. I’m not going to say what it is, but if I can beat it I will be delighted. These were my first goals in the Scottish Cup this season but hopefully I can bang in a few more in the league and then see what happens in the semi-final.”
With nine more league games remaining for Hibs and at least one more in the Cup, it wouldn’t seem unreasonable to assume the 22-year-old is aiming for 30 but even with his record so far Griffiths admitted he doesn’t know if it will be enough to catch Scotland boss Gordon Strachan’s eye as he prepares to name his squad for the World Cup qualifying double header against Wales and Serbia.
Griffiths, who won his first Scotland cap in the recent friendly against Luxembourg, said: “There’s a lot of great strikers like Steven Fletcher and Jordan Rhodes who are banging in the goals in the Premiership and Championship while Kenny Miller and Steven Naismith are doing well so I will keep my head down, and if I do get recognition that will be fine – if not, then I am not gong to be too disappointed.”
The striker’s immediate attention, though, is this weekend’s derby with arch-rivals Hearts. He said: “All I am looking forward to is getting back on the training ground and focusing on Sunday.”
Hibs joy, however, was tempered as Done is set to miss the semi-final after picking up his second booking in the competition. The on-loan Barnsley winger received a yellow card on his debut in the victory over Aberdeen and again yesterday for delaying a free-kick.