As Championship leaders Rangers romped to a six-goal demolition of Dumbarton, title rivals Hibs were struggling to a 1-0 win over Raith Rovers.
But, as far as Easter Road midfielder Dylan McGeouch was concerned, there was little difference to the final outcome of their respective matches on Saturday, both sides emerging with the same three points.
Whether goal difference may eventually become relevant in what is a three-horse race for the one automatic promotion place – Falkirk having continued their own impressive run of late with a 1-0 triumph against Alloa Athletic – remains to be seen, but, for McGeouch, all that matters at the moment is winning, not the manner of how it is achieved.
Jason Cummings’ 16th goal of the season clinched Hibs’ sixth 1-0 league victory so far and that is, according to McGeouch, a clear indication of the steely determination within Alan Stubbs’ squad.
In contrast, it took the Edinburgh outfit until the end of February last year to record such a final scoreline, a propensity for surrendering a lead costing them so many precious points.
Now, though, if opposition teams are intent on making life tough by sitting behind the ball – as Raith did at the weekend – Stubbs’ players have a self-belief that somehow they’ll find a way to goal. The win also dispelled any fears that Hibs’ season may fall apart in the wake of Rangers ending Hibs’ 17-match unbeaten run just a few days earlier.
“Beating Raith was massive for us,” said McGeouch. “I think a lot of people were expecting us to drop points after our defeat at Ibrox. They’d be looking to see if we could bounce back or if we were going to go under, but we stepped up.
“It might not have been pretty at times, but we won and have kept the pressure on. The most important thing was winning the three points. You get the same number of points if you win 1-0 or by three or four.”
Hibs definitely struggled at times during last season’s campaign when opposition teams simply sat in against them and got as many bodies behind the ball as possible, but while that remains the option still favoured by many, McGeouch believes he and his team-mates have the patience to counter such tactics, something he feels the Hibs support now recognise and appreciate.
He said: “You are not going to go out and win by four or five every weeks. Sometimes you have to take your hat off to the opposition. They are well-organised, disciplined, defend well and try to hit you on the break. If you can pass them off the park great, but if not you have to keep focused and try to work out how to break them down.
“Sometimes when that happens the fans can become a bit anxious and that transmits itself onto the pitch, but I think our supporters see that we aren’t just going to play boring route-one football, that we have a lot of energy in the team, a bit of ability and that we will work it out and so they are staying with us.”
And if it took a penalty – albeit converted on the rebound after Cummings’ spot-kick was initially saved by Raith keeper Kevin Cuthbert – to win the points, McGeouch pointed to the quality of the move which led to it, the striker’s movement matched by an inch-perfect pass from Liam Henderson.
He said: “Everyone was disappointed by what had happened at Ibrox and the next one was always going to be hard for us. I was feeling a bit leggy myself in my second game in less than a week having been out injured.
“It took me a little while to get going, but to be honest, I don’t think we ever looked like conceding in the game. Raith had a few balls into the box but we were pretty solid. The back-four and the goalkeeper gave us a good platform to go and play, to work hard at trying to break them down.
“We had a few flashes in the game of really good football, good passing movements, but when you are playing against a well-organised, compact defence, space is at a premium.
“We had a few chances to put the game to bed – I could have done better myself with one of them – but Jason’s goal was a huge relief. It settled us and we were able to manage the game quite comfortably from then on.
“Last year we might have dropped points in a game like that. We struggled when teams sat in against us and when they got physical we went under a bit, but now we have that bit of steeliness about us. If teams want to came and battle, we can do that and then the quality we have takes over. It’s great to know we have that side to us.”
Hibs now face Raith again on Saturday, travelling to Stark’s Park as their Scottish Cup campaign gets under way, Ray McKinnon’s players no doubt sick of Cummings as he has scored in all three games against them so far this season.
Inevitably, the 20-year-old will find himself increasingly in the spotlight during this transfer window as speculation regarding his future intensifies, with a clutch of English clubs said to be ready to make a move, although none have, as yet, shown their hand.
McGeouch, though, feels Cummings can cope with that pressure, saying: “Players who are doing well are always going to be linked with moves. It’s credit to Jason and everyone in the team. We are creating chances and he is taking them. I’m sure Jason will keep himself grounded. Whatever happens – if anything does – will be up to him and the club, but as long as he is banging the goals in for Hibs, then everyone is happy.”
Facing Raith twice in a week is, however, something McGeouch would rather have avoided. The 22-year-old added: “I never think it’s ideal to play the same team two games in a row. I don’t know how it’s going to pan out. They might be a bit more open being at home and with a place in the next round of the cup at stake in a one-off match rather than points.
“But whether it’s like that or a bit of a battle, we’ll be going there aiming to get the job done and get ourselves into the hat for the draw for the next round.”