Hibs boss Neil Lennon today hailed his Scottish Cup heroes as “absolutely magnificent”, claiming they’d blown Hearts away in their fifth-round replay and could easily have beaten their Capital rivals by four or five goals.
Strikes from Jason Cummings – his fifth in six derbies – Grant Holt and Andrew Shinnie had Ian Cathro’s players reeling at Easter Road and, even though Esmael Goncalves pulled one back for the Jambos there was never a doubt that it would be Hibs going forward to play Ayr United in the quarter-finals.
Lennon, who had mounted an astonishing attack on his players following their miserable performance against Raith Rovers at the weekend, had nothing but praise for them after their 3-1 win, adamant the way they had reacted spoke volumes for their character.
He said: “As a manager, I couldn’t have asked for any more. You could see what it meant to the supporters, the build-up, the anticipation. The players were ferocious, absolutely ferocious.
“I felt it should have been more, it could have been four or five. I couldn’t see Hearts scoring. We knew the way they try to play and we were ready for it. We had good chances first and second half, had a disallowed goal and we worked their goalkeeper more than they worked ours.”
Admitting his team can be something of an enigma, capable of producing such a performance but also guilty of dropping their standards in games they are expected to win, he went on: “I was delighted for the players.
“If we could play all our games here under the floodlights I would be delighted. The playersrose to the occasion. They did that against Dundee United, we need that bit of consistency. But they made a good side look pretty ordinary.
“I didn’t outsmart their manager, my team wanted it. It was a great night for the club and now we have a quarter-final at home against Ayr United although we maybe have the bragging rights for a little while.”
And Cummings claimed he and his team-mates triumphed because Hibs had more players who know what an Edinburgh derby is all about. The 21-year-old, who took his tally for the season to 17, said: “It’s maybe a bit controversial, but to me that didn’t really look like a Hearts team.
“I think we wanted it more than them. We have a lot of players who know about Edinburgh derbies, who know what it means to the fans. But you look at their teamsheet and perhaps they didn’t know what it meant.”
Cummings insisted he never doubted Hibs would win. “I didn’t think for a minute we were going to lose. I enjoy these games, I was buzzing and I really enjoyed myself, I was playing with a smile.”
Asked if Hibs could go all the way and hold on to the trophy it took them 114 years to win, Cummings stated: “There’s no pressure because we got that monkey off our backs last year when everyone was asking could this be the first time. Now everyone is enjoying it. If we were to go out I think the fans would applaud us but what a chance we have, Ayr United at home. But we have to go at it the same way we did in this game.”