Alan Stubbs is wary of the prospect of losing top scorer Jason Cummings to suspension for one of Hibs’ play-off matches.
The 18-goal hitman has been booked five times this season and is liable to miss a play-off match if he is shown another yellow card in one of his side’s last two league games – at home to Alloa today and away to Falkirk next weekend – or in one of the early play-off ties.
Earlier this month, upon losing Scott Allan and Keith Watson to suspension, Stubbs questioned the Scottish totting-up procedure which means that anyone who collects six bookings in a league campaign – no matter how spread out they are – automatically misses a match a fortnight later. He insisted that the English system, in which players are only suspended if they reach five bookings by the end of December, or ten by the end of April, is a fairer way of dealing with yellow cards.
And after Rangers manager Stuart McCall, who has Kenny Miller and Darren McGregor walking a tightrope, this week called for a rule change so that bookings in the regulation season do not have an impact on play-off matches, Stubbs insisted it is “wrong” that Cummings, who hasn’t been booked since January, now finds himself at risk of missing one of the most crucial games in Hibs’ tense campaign.
“We knew if Jason got booked [against Livingston] on Wednesday, he would miss the first leg of the first play-off game, so yeah it affects us,” he said. “And I think it’s wrong.
“The system in England is much better, where there is a cut-off date and then everything is re-set. To have this running for the length of time that it does is not fair on the players, especially when you count potentially six extra games at the end of the season [in the play-offs].”
While Stubbs is hopeful that Cummings can avoid picking up a caution, he admits the situation has caused him a headache. “If we rested Jason for Wednesday, maybe we don’t get a result and it affects you,” he explained. “If we rest him against Alloa, it could be the same. If we’re in the play-offs, it could affect him for a game two weeks down the line.
“There are obviously things we have to take a calculated risk about. A couple of his bookings have been for kicking the ball away or celebrating but I think he’s learned from that. You only have to look at his celebration from the recent Hearts game – he didn’t go off the pitch, he learned from the first one. So maybe the penny is dropping.”
Meanwhile, key midfielders Dylan McGeouch and Fraser Fyvie are likely to sit out today’s game against Alloa with minor fitness issues. “Fraser’s just got a bit of tightness and it’s similar with Dylan – he just needs a little bit of rest to let his body recover for some very important games,” said Stubbs.