Jason Cummings has his eyes set on a treble – helping Hibs win promotion to the Premiership, lifting the Scottish Cup and ending the season as the Championship’s top scorer.
The teenager’s derby-day strike took his tally for the season to 17, with 15 of them coming in the league. He currently tops the Championship’s scoring charts, but Queen of the South duo Derek Lyle (14) and Gavin Reilly (13) are breathing down his neck.
Cummings’ original aim this season was just to score as many goals as he could, but now he admits he’d love to end his first full season “top of the charts”.
However, he insisted personal glory comes second to ensuring Alan Stubbs’ players enjoy a thrilling finale, their 2-0 victory over Capital rivals Hearts securing their place in the play-offs, with the aim now being to clinch second place and so cut the number of games required for a stab at a return to the top flight.
And, of course, there’s the little matter of Saturday’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Falkirk, a repeat of the penultimate round of two years ago when Hibs came back from 3-0 down to win a thriller 4-3.
Cummings said: “To be honest, I didn’t have a target at the start of the season. I just wanted to score as many goals as I could. You hear of strikers talking of getting 20 as being a good season, so that’s probably my aim now, to do that and finish top of the charts.”
As much as he enjoyed scoring against the club which released him after he’d suffered a serious knee injury a few years ago, Cummings conceded that his winner at Dumbarton four days earlier was possibly a more important goal ending, as it did, a run of three successive defeats for Hibs, which had many believing they’d lost their nerve.
The former Hutchison Vale kid said: “We’d been beaten in those three games, but you could still see it was there. We were a bit unlucky in each of them, but at Dumbarton and again in the derby you could see a team which was really hungry, confident, playing relaxed football and enjoying it.
“You could see we are a team to be reckoned with. Now getting second place is massive. We are looking to get up this season and I’m feeling confident about the play-offs.”
Cummings’ confidence was such that, he insisted, he had no worries when replaced by Dominique Malonga as he began cramping up in both calves that Hibs, leading only by his goal despite having dominated the first half, would surrender that advantage, although the home fans could only breath easily when Farid El Alagui netted a second in injury time.
He said: “We’d had plenty of chances. Callum Paterson put a header against his own bar, Liam Fontaine hit it with a tremendous shot, Liam had one taken off the line and Neil Alexander had a good save from me.
“We should probably have won by more than two, so hopefully against Falkirk on Saturday we can take our chances – maybe we’ll do a bit of shooting practice this week.
“But even although we only had that one goal I wasn’t nervous at all sitting on the bench watching. I was confident because I could not see us conceding a goal. Our defence was rock solid.”
And Cummings believes his renewed partnership with El Alagui, playing only his second 90 minutes following almost seven months out after he ruptured his Achilles tendon, can drive Hibs on to realise their ambitions.
He said: “I thought big Farid was brilliant – probably one of our best players. I think he won every header. He just kept knocking the ball down to me and that’s how I got my goal. He’s put Fraser Fyvie’s ball into the box down into the six-yard box and that’s where I come alive. I hit it with my right foot rather than my left. It was scuffed a bit into the corner but it doesn’t matter how they go in.
“Sometimes you can catch a shot as cleanly as you’d like and it goes over the bar or the goalkeeper saves it. To see that one go in was just brilliant.”
Cummings had enjoyed that feeling before, netting Hibs’ opener on their last visit to Tynecastle, his celebrations afterwards earning him a yellow card, before Jamie Walker took the gloss off his day by equalising. This time, though, it was a day to remember.
He said: “Scoring the last time was brilliant, a great feeling personally after what had happened to me over there, but we didn’t win the game.
“So to score and go on to win the derby makes it a special day. My celebrations were quite mad again, but the boys were pulling me back.
“But I was just as delighted to see Farid score, not only because it made the game totally safe, but for the big man himself. He deserved it. He’s been working his socks off to get back and having been out so long I made him my man of the match.
“I enjoy playing with him. I always feel I am going to get chances because he is a big presence up there and hopefully we’ll prove to be a good partnership in the coming weeks.”
Stubbs had his squad back in at East Mains for training yesterday with the focus now firmly on Saturday’s trip to Hampden, an occasion that Cummings is determined to enjoy.
He said: “I’ve never played there before, but winning the derby has set us up nicely for a shot at getting to the final itself.
“It could be a tremendous end to the season, going for promotion and having a Scottish Cup final to look forward to.
“We just need to keep winning to keep the pressure on Rangers, who have a game in hand on us but have to go to Tynecastle on the final day of the season. But to win promotion and lift the cup would be great for the fans. We’d love to give them something back. They had a hard time of it last season. We gave them very little to cheer so to be able to do that would mean a lot to us.”