Paul Hanlon is backing happy-go-lucky Jason Cummings to redeem himself again after a second poor miss at Stark’s Park in recent weeks contributed to Hibs slipping to potentially disastrous defeat.
Like all good strikers, Cummings has proved time and time again how he is unfazed by missing chances.
His ability to put bad moments behind him was underlined in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Dundee United at Hampden last month. Cummings bounced back from a truly awful penalty miss that that led to him being jeered by his own supporters to score the winning kick in the shoot-out.
Cummings was eventually replaced by James Keatings towards the end of Wednesday’s 1-0 first-leg defeat by Raith Rovers in their quarter-final play-off tie. If selected for tomorrow’s second leg, the striker will want to make up for failing to take an excellent opportunity to put Hibs ahead two days ago.
Head coach Alan Stubbs admitted later that the striker should have scored with a chance shortly before half-time when he was put clean through by John McGinn. Cummings’ attempted lob drifted over both goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert and the bar.
The striker had another moment to forget at Stark’s Park back in March when he hit the bar from a yard out with the goal at his mercy as Hibs fell to a 2-1 defeat by the Kirkcaldy side.
Hanlon, however, is in awe of his team-mate’s ability to move on from such setbacks, and wishes he too could have access to such reserves of self-confidence.
The defender puts the striker’s carefree approach down to how grateful he is to be playing football after serving an apprenticeship as a gardener. “He’ll brush it off and go again though,” said Hanlon. “That’s part of being a striker. It’s all about how you react to missing chances. Not so long ago he was a gardener, working hard, so he goes into games relaxed and enjoys every minute of being a professional footballer.
“It’s a good way to be. I admire the carefree way he plays the game at times – I wish I could be a bit more like that at times.
“I think with the pitch being so bouncy, it sat up perfect for him to lob it over but he seems to have put too much on it,” Hanlon added. “It looked like it was on just to lift it over the goalie – on another day it drops in and it’s great finish.”
Hanlon didn’t dispute the knee-knocking nature of Hibs’ assignment tomorrow. They know they must win to prevent their promotion dream unravelling at the earliest stage of the play-offs. Raith manager Ray McKinnon has already predicted a “nervy” atmosphere at Easter Road tomorrow, adding that Hibs “don’t want to spend another season in this division”.
Hanlon, pictured, doesn’t doubt there will be anxiety in the air but he pointed out that at least Hibs now know exactly what they have to do.
“I’m sure there’ll be nerves from the fans as well because it means so much to them,” he said. “But we can only concentrate on what we can control and that’s the 90 minutes we’re facing on Saturday. We’re looking forward to it and we’re still confident that we’ll make it through. We’re confident going in against anyone at Easter Road. We always fancy our chances there and Saturday will be no different.
“You only have to look at our squad to see there’s goals in us but when the chances come, we need to be ruthless and take them. There’s no doubt we’ve got the quality but we just need to make sure we perform at the right time.
“There’s nerves before every game – if you’re not nervous before a big game like Saturday’s you shouldn’t be in the game because it probably doesn’t mean enough to you. I’ll be nervous in the build-up but you use those nerves to spur you on.
“It’s clear what we have to do now – we have to win the game. It’s still in our hands and we have a clear picture of the job we have to do.”