BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
Jason Cummings admits Christmas has come early after the Hibernian striker reached his yuletide goal target with two months to spare.
The prolific youngster’s objective this term was to reach double-figures by the festive period, acting as a first way-point on his journey to 20 goals by the end of the season. Frankly, that aim now appears exceedingly modest.
Princes Street has yet to be adorned with its Christmas lights and iconic ferris wheel, yet the capital’s most prolific marksman claimed his 10th goal of the campaign against Raith Rovers on Saturday.
The Scotland under-21 forward latched onto a Mark Oxley punt before lofting a delightful chip over Raith Rovers goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert. It was the clinical finish indicative of a player who has now scored in each of his last four outings.
Little wonder, then, that Cummings is relishing the opportunity to take that form into next Sunday’s mouth-watering fixture against Rangers.
“That’s 10 for the campaign now. My target was to get 10 goals before Christmas and 20-plus for the season, so I’m well ahead of schedule,” said Cummings. “I might need to update it a wee bit!
“Every game, I’m looking to add to my goals and it’s going well. But as long as the team is winning, that’s all that matters. It’s good to have that momentum coming into a massive game for the club against Rangers.
“We don’t have any fear – we’re confident and will go for the win against Rangers. We can pile the pressure on them and we’ll be going out attacking to try and close the gap.
“I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time. It’s the biggest game of the season so far for us and it will be a great occasion.”
Cummings’ neat finish ultimately proved decisive in a hard-fought 2-1 win in Kirkcaldy, but McGinn’s effort was certainly the more eye-catching.
He broke the deadlock in sensational fashion after four minutes, unleashing a ferocious drive from 25 yards beyond the stranded Cuthbert, kissing the inside of the post on its way into the net.
Hibs head coach Alan Stubbs later said McGinn possesses “a thud” of a left foot.
“It was an unbelievable strike. He’s been watching me training,” smiled Cummings.
Joking aside, there does seem to be a potentially fruitful relationship developing between McGinn and Cummings; forged on international duty and now benefiting Hibs.
He continued: “McGinn has been different class for us. I played with him for the Scotland under -21s and I think we’ve built a good understanding and we have a good relationship on the park. He seems to see my runs quite a lot and I like playing with John.
“You saw last season how good Scott Allan was and what a top quality player he is. I thought we would miss him, but the gaffer has done an amazing job in bringing in some top class midfielders like John.”
Jon Daly – fit, well and a constant menace to Liam Fontaine and Paul Hanlon in the second period – halved arrears when he ghosted in at the back post to head home a clipped Jason Thomson cross after 64 minutes.
Concerted pressure followed, and only heroic goal-line defending from Fontaine stopped Scott Robertson from restoring parity, with the big centre-half heading clear a sharp shot by the former Hibee.
As seems almost traditional in the SPFL, there was also time for some refereeing controversy when a Daly overhead kick struck the hand of Hanlon inside the box.
“It’s been a hard couple of games and it just proves the competition in this league,” added Cummings. “But we have shown that we have a defence that can handle pressure. Coming away to Falkirk and Raith are really tough places, so to come away with maximum points is massive for the boys.”