GIVEN his brash demeanour and unwavering self-assurance, Jason Cummings acknowledges that his Hibernian team-mates have a tendency to take his bombast with a pinch of salt.
On Saturday, however, he was as good as his word after delivering on a promise to emerge as the match-winner against Morton.
Relegated to the bench following an underwhelming display in Hibs’ 2-1 defeat by Dumbarton nine days ago, Cummings left his fellow substitutes with no doubt about his intentions as they watched the action unfold from the sidelines.
When he finally entered the fray after 58 frustrating minutes for the hosts, replacing Marvin Bartley, he took just 20 seconds to ghost into the box and clinically convert a fine low cross by David Gray.
It proved to be the decisive strike in a stuffy contest – and a knowing glance back to the bench following his celebrations said it all.
“It was brilliant – and with my first touch. I was sitting on the bench and saying to the boys ‘I’m going to score when I come on here’,” he said.
“They were probably thinking, ‘Aye, that’s just typical Jason’. So when I came on and scored after 20 seconds I looked over the lads to say, ‘Told you so!’
“I was delighted with it. It was a brilliant ball in from Dave [Gray] – he’s set me up a million times like that, just cutting it across goal perfectly. That sort of quality makes it a tap-in for me.”
After the triumph, Hibs head coach Alan Stubbs, who has emphasised the need for Cummings to mature to make the most of his natural talent, lauded the young striker’s reaction to being unceremoniously benched.
“I was never going to sulk. In my head, all I wanted to was come on and make an impact and hopefully get on the scoresheet,” said Cummings, when informed of the praise. “We’ve got a strong team now and last week wasn’t my best performance. With the players we have, you need to play well every game to keep yourself in the team.
“It’s hot competition and I know myself that I wasn’t at my best against Dumbarton. No-one needs to tell me that. So, when I came on I was determined to do all I could to show the gaffer I want to be starting.”
His intervention was timely, given Dominique Malonga looked like he could have played until the sun went down in Leith without finding the net.
His first, and most startling, display of profligacy came when he dragged a shot wide from six yards, with the goal gaping, following a knock-down by the excellent Martin Boyle.
He then directed a tame shot into the arms of Morton goalkeeper Derek Gaston after latching on to another excellent Gray delivery. The Congo internationalist also fizzed a first-half drive wide from the edge of the box.
While it was “one of those days” for Malonga, it would be wrong to heap the blame for the home side’s wastefulness squarely on the broad shoulders of Hibs’ No 7. Liam Fontaine headed over the bar from six yards after meeting a delightful clip into the box by Fraser Fyvie, while Gray saw a point-blank header saved by Gaston.
John McGinn’s superb 25-yard drive in the second half was also tipped over the bar as he displayed a regular willingness to try his luck from distance on his first start for the capital club.
Despite seeing his side find the net on only one occasion, Stubbs can be heartened by the number of chances created by his side, especially following the sale of their creative hub, Scott Allan, to Celtic.
“Scotty was a top player and we are going to miss him on the pitch,” said Cummings.
“But we have brought in a good replacement in Liam Henderson, who is different class.
“I played with him with the Scotland Under-19s and I think he is one of the most talented young players in the country.”
Morton, meanwhile, were left to rue a 15-minute spell prior to half-time, during which they threatened to throw a real spanner in the works at Easter Road in a couple of rare forays forward.
Veteran marksman Peter MacDonald forced a sharp save from Mark Oxley following some superb wing play by Mark Russell, before the Hibs goalkeeper was once again called up to deny Stefan McCluskey from point-blank range.
“We had two of the best chances in the first half through Peaso [MacDonald] and Stef [McCluskey] goes right through on goal,” said Morton manager and ex-Hibs boss Jim Duffy. “If one of those goes in, it could be a different game. It’s a wee lapse in concentration from us that costs us the game. Cummings comes on and it takes a couple of minutes for us to adjust – and in that time he scores with his first touch.”