BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Hibs defender Paul Hanlon has warned Raith Rovers that the capital club possess the fire-power to overhaul their 1-0 deficit.
Ray McKinnon’s resilient Rovers withstood a barrage of pressure in the first half against the Hibees on Wednesday evening, with Jason Cummings, Anthony Stokes, Lewis Stevenson and Liam Fontaine all coming close.
Keeper Kevin Cuthbert excelled between the sticks for the hosts and Raith produced the perfect sucker-punch with 15 minutes to play, with Harry Panayiotou heading home from a Louis Longridge corner.
Hibs’ promotion bid is now hanging by a thread ahead of tomorrow’s second leg at Easter Road – nevertheless Hanlon is refusing to panic, and even reckons Raith could be the side caught in two minds as they defend a “dodgy” lead.
The 26-year-old said: “It’s still in our hands and we have a clear picture of the job we need to do.
“In any situation, even just in a 90-minute game, 1-0 is a dodgy lead. Do you go for it and make it more comfortable? Do you sit in and soak up the pressure? That’s something Raith have to worry about – we know exactly what we have to do.
“We’re confident going in against anyone at Easter Road. We always fancy our chances there. Saturday will be no different.
“You only have to look at our squad to see there are goals in us, but when the chances come, we need to be ruthless and take them. We had a couple of good chances against Raith and we had balls flashing across the six-yard box that need someone there just to put the ball in the net.
“There’s no doubt we’ve got the quality but we just need to make sure we perform at the right time.”
Cummings was the main offender for the profligate visitors, lobbing a shot well over the bar after being sent clean through by John McGinn and with Cuthbert in no-man’s land.
His unfortunate evening was lapped up by the home fans, given Cummings had suggested prior to the fixture that Hibs’ playoff opponents would be “scared” by the Easter Road side.
Hanlon fully expects Cummings to brush off a night to forget, admitting that he sometimes wishes he had the same carefree persona as the Scotland under-21 internationalist.
He 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. He’ll brush it off and go again though.
“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.”