Andrew Shinnie insists Hibernian can survive without Jason Cummings, the striker who scored a match winner against Dundee United and still ended up apologising to his teammates afterwards.
Cummings was red-carded for a second bookable offence after slapping the ball into the net with 15 minutes left of Friday’s vital Championship encounter at Tannadice.
The fact he had already scored a spectacular goal that ended up extending Hibs’ lead over fourth-placed United meant manager Neil Lennon was prepared to offer some clemency afterwards.
But Hibs, who are now six points clear of second-placed Falkirk, will be without their suspended talisman striker for this weekend’s home league clash with Dumbarton.
“We have to [cope],” said Shinnie. “We have a big squad, so we need someone to step up and fill the void. [Martin] Boyle has come in and done well, [Brian] Graham when he has started has scored goals. We have to deal with that, because Jason isn’t going to be there. We’ll get on with it but we are feeling good about ourselves just now and we look forward to the next game.”
Cummings has been enduring a mild ribbing from his team-mates on Twitter all weekend, with Marvin Bartley superimposing Cummings’ head on to the photograph of Diego Maradona scoring his “hand of God” goal against England in 1986.
Shinnie, too, laughed it off but he had reason to be slightly more miffed than others – he was at the back post waiting to knock David Gray’s cross into the net when Cummings performed his Superman impersonation.
“I wasn’t sure if it would come to me for a tap-in but it was clear from the noise it had slapped off his hand,” said Shinnie. “He had been booked a couple of minutes earlier so everyone knew he was off. It made it a bit difficult for us near the end but no-one can have a go at him. He has been unbelievable for us this season. We wouldn’t be where we are without him.”
“He apologised to all the lads,” added Shinnie. “They didn’t really create any chances but he might have cost us, might have ended up a draw or something but we move on.”
Shinnie, pictured above, suggested these are just the moments you need to expect with such a maverick talent. “He’s not your normal regular footballer, he has something about him,” he said. “It was a bit annoying when it happened because we were comfortable in the game. They weren’t causing us any trouble.
“It gave them and their fans a bit of a lift and they just launched some balls into our box but the lads at the back dealt with them. It didn’t cost us in the end.”
Hibs were rarely threatened even when down to ten men, helped by United themselves being a player short for far longer after Lewis Toshney’s red card in the first half. Lennon hailed the performance as being what is expected of potential champions, the manager later taking aim at unnamed detractors within the game who have questioned Hibs’ mettle. Shinnie revealed Lennon had included this complaint in his pre-match talk.
“He didn’t mention any names,” said the midfielder. “Stuff that happens in the changing room I’m not going to talk about elsewhere. But there’s ways of motivating, to get yourself up for games and if people don’t respect us or give us credit we don’t care, we just get on with it. We are a team.”