AS MUCH as he savoured Monday night’s impressive 3-1 win at Ibrox, Hibs captain Liam Craig has warned his team-mates it will count for little if they cannot follow it up with back-to-back home victories in their next two fixtures.
The success over Rangers, which followed last week’s League Cup win over Ross County in Dingwall, has injected fresh optimism into Hibs after a less than convincing start to the season under new manager Alan Stubbs. The club now has the chance to establish a credible promotion challenge in the Championship with home games against Raith Rovers and Dumbarton in the next two weeks.
Hibs supporters do not have to look back too far to appreciate that a win at Ibrox can prove to be a false dawn. The last time their team won in Govan, a 3-0 triumph under Colin Calderwood four years ago, they won only one of their next 13 games. So midfielder Craig is keen to stress how crucial it is to now deliver consistent positive results.
“It was a massive win at Ibrox and it’s the first time I’ve ever won as a player there,” said Craig. “It was a great feeling, but it is only three points and that is the emphasis in our dressing room.
“We said after beating Ross County last week that it was a platform to build on. That’s back-to-back wins on the road now, so it’s important we can take care of Raith Rovers on Saturday and try to put together a run of results. After beating Ross County and Rangers, there is no excuse not to take care of the home games.
“A lot has been said about whether we are title contenders but we have got to believe. It is only seven games into the season and that is why there wasn’t a mad panic in our dressing room about the start we made.
“We now need to play with the same tempo and desire against Raith Rovers as we did at Ibrox and we will take it game by game. We didn’t panic when we lost one or two games and we are not going to get excited because we have won a couple.
“You saw at the end of the game on Monday night what it meant to the players, to the club and the fans who have been through some tough results.
“It wasn’t pretty at times at Ibrox but we were defensively solid and we limited Rangers to high balls into the box. We worked hard right from the front and deserved the win in the end. Rangers and Hearts have not performed well in some of their games this season but have won them. We have got to make sure we are picking up points at the likes of Alloa and Queen of the South, which we haven’t done so far.
“I don’t think there has been any hangover from relegation last season. You just need to look at the previous game against Rangers at Ibrox in the Challenge Cup at the start of this season which we should have won.
“Last season, there was maybe an acceptance of losing games because it happened every week. This season, we are in a league where we have to realise we are a big scalp regardless of what people think.
“Everyone wants to beat us – and it is the exact same for Rangers and Hearts. So we need to be at it every week because we are not good enough just to turn up and think we are going to win.
“We know what our squad is about and we know we have good players. We know we have let ourselves and the club down with some of the results but we know we have players capable of coming to places like Ibrox and winning games.
“The fans have been brilliant ever since I came to the club even though there have been some tough times. To see them like they were at Ibrox gives you a buzz and makes you want to go on a run because when we do get it right, it is incredible. That is why it is important we go and give the same sort of performance on Saturday and get the win.”
Jason Cummings was the headline-grabber for Hibs on Monday night with his two-goal contribution, although manager Stubbs was keen to stress afterwards that the 19-year-old still has much to work on if he is to enjoy a successful long-term career in the game.
The inference was that Cummings needs to show greater application in training and a willingness to learn, something backed up by Craig.
“I don’t know if you could put it in print if I told you what he is like in training,” smiled Craig. “But he is a top boy and has the potential to be a top player if he works hard. A few of the senior boys have spoken to him and told him the harder he works, the more chances he will get.
“I think he showed that against Rangers because his work rate was second to none. He had two great finishes in the end.
“He has got the right people behind him in the manager and the backroom staff. They work really hard with him and they speak to him in a way with which they are getting a response from him.
“He has had to be patient this season and that shows the boy’s character. Jason played a lot of games last season but didn’t score as many goals as he would have hoped.
“But after being left out earlier in the season, he has come back in and is making a statement now with his goals. I see the desire in him and it is up to the senior players as well as the management to help the younger players.”