Last-minute goal hero Franck Dja Djedje today urged his Easter Road team-mates to make the most of their great escape against Livingston by clocking up a fifth straight victory to keep the heat on Rangers ahead of the Ibrox club’s trip to the Capital.
Dja Djedje’s stunning header on Wednesday night widened the gap to five points between Hibs and Rangers in the race for second place and victory against Cowdenbeath at Central Park would guarantee that the Glasgow club would still be trailing when they pitch up at Easter Road a week on Sunday.
But until the little hitman rose to power home Lewis Stevenson’s pinpoint cross barely a minute after Ibra Sekajja had silenced the home fans by prodding home an unlikely equaliser for the Championship’s basement side at Easter Road, it looked as if Alan Stubbs’ players had handed the initiative back to the troubled Govan outfit.
Dja Djedje admitted he and his team-mates had been handed a huge incentive ahead of their clash with the Lions after Rangers had dropped points for the third game in succession only 24 hours earlier, Aidan Smith’s equaliser for Queen of the South forcing a draw in the wake of stalemates against Cowdenbeath and Falkirk.
Sekajja’s first goal for Livi, however, brought memories of Christian Nade’s last-gasp equaliser for Raith Rovers only a few weeks ago flooding back with draws having proved to be Hibs’ Achilles heel this season, that being the seventh time in this campaign they had dropped two points, six of those having occurred on their home turf.
It was little wonder, then, that wild celebrations followed both on and off the pitch as Dja Djedje, who was giving away six inches in height to Livingston defender Craig Sives, out-jumped the former Hearts player to glance a header in off goalkeeper Darren Jamieson’s left hand post.
The 28-year-old said: “It was a very important goal.
“We obviously knew Rangers had drawn the night before, giving us the chance to get ourselves further in front of them. But it looked as if we’d passed up that opportunity. We’d had a lot of the ball, particularly in the first half but just couldn’t get another goal to add to the one Jason Cummings had scored.
“Perhaps if we had got a second we’d have gone on to score three or four and the game would have been finished. Even then it looked as if just the one goal was going to be enough but, as everyone knows, the opposition always have a chance when that’s the case no matter how few chances they’ve had themselves.
“It was a bit like Christian Nade’s equaliser for Raith Rovers the other week but luckily this time we managed to get a second goal to win it. I was told there was only about a minute between Livingston scoring and my goal. I don’t know if Livingston perhaps lost a little bit of focus having equalised so late on.
“They probably thought they’d got a point which would have been very good for them and obviously not so good for us. It’s important you stay focused for every second on the pitch and thankfully we did that and got the winner.”
If the sight of Dja Djedje, who stands 5ft 9in tall, soaring above everyone else to head home came as a surprise to many, the Ivory Coast-born player revealed he can pose a threat in the air. And for proof have a look at Youtube and the winner he scored for Ukrainian side Chornomorets Odessa to beat PSV Eindhoven in the Europa League.
He said: “Yes, I’ve scored a few with my head. Perhaps because I am not the tallest defenders think I can’t jump too high but it was a great ball in from Lewis and the goalkeeper didn’t move because my header was going away from him and went in off the post giving him no chance of getting to it.”
Cowdenbeath, like Livingston, are battling to avoid relegation to League One, Jimmy Nicholl’s side six points in front of the Lions but just one ahead of Alloa Athletic in the fight to steer clear of the play-off place. After a ten-goal hammering by Hearts, the Blue Brazil held Rangers to a no-scoring draw, leaving no-one at Easter Road under any illusion as to how tough their visit to Central Park will be.
Regardless of that, though, Dja Djedje admitted Stubbs’ players have to find a way to win no matter what with Rangers hosting Livingston before Alloa visit Ibrox on Tuesday night as the Glasgow club play one of the two games in hand they enjoy over Hibs.
He said: “It’s very important we win because if we do then no matter how Rangers get on in the two games they’ll be playing over the next few days they’ll be coming to Easter Road still at least two points behind us, knowing we have beaten them three times in the league already this season and that will keep the pressure on them.”