Kris Commons’ Celtic team-mates will shortly be flying out for a bit of warm weather training in Dubai, but the on-loan Hibs midfielder insists he’ll be happy staying in sunny Leith as he looks forward to Friday night’s Championship showdown with Dundee United.
The 33-year-old ensured Neil Lennon’s players will go into that clash with the Capital club’s title rivals top of the table, thundering home a late free-kick to sink Falkirk and ensure United’s own stay at the top lasted barely seven days.
As Hibs fans travelled home to see in the bells in jubilant mood, the Tannadice side were suffering a second surprise defeat of the season at Dumbarton, one which leaves them trailing the Easter Road club by a point.
But until Commons struck – his shot after Falkirk defender Peter Grant had brought down Martin Boyle reckoned by Lennon to have been travelling at 80 mph – it looked certain Hibs would have to settle for a third successive 1-1 draw, Jason Cummings with his tenth goal of the season cancelling out Craig Sibbald’s opener for the Bairns.
Falkirk boss Peter Houston had no quibbles about the award of the free-kick, but he was less than happy with the way his players had defended the situation, believing the fact the ball was placed inches from the 18-yard line left Commons with only one option – to go for power.
“He couldn’t curl it because he was too close,” insisted Houston, “And he couldn’t get it up and down. He could only do one thing and I am disappointed we didn’t defend it.”
And to add insult to injury, Commons revealed that as well as he struck the shot, he didn’t catch it as cleanly as he would have wanted.
He said: “I actually wanted to hit it a little bit more to the goalkeeper’s left, but looking at it on video, it looks like a wee cracker.”
Houston felt Myles Hippolyte, as a taller player, should have been in his side’s defensive wall and prepared to “take one for the team,” rather than the much smaller Tom Taiwo.
Commons, however, believed it would have taken a fair degree of courage for anyone to have put their head in the way of his thunderbolt.
He said: “For me, being in a wall myself, if anyone hits the ball towards my head, I’m ducking. So it takes a brave man to stand there when I hit it that hard to take one in the face.
“So I just went on instinct to hit it as hard as I could. With the wind behind me I just thought I’d hit it as hard as possible.
“I was aiming for heads and hoping they were going to move – and they did. It was a wonderful strike and the keeper had minimal time to try to react to it.”
And Commons revealed the message hammered home by Lennon at a series of team meetings had hit home, the manager having bemoaned in recent weeks the number of chances created but scorned as Hibs were forced to settle for potentially damaging draws against Morton and Raith Rovers.
He said: “We had a few meetings about the conditions and the pitch and strikers not being at it in our previous games. It was about being clinical. It was important to take our chances.
“I think we created 21 opportunities against Raith so you question the strikers. There was no issue about creating chances, it was about putting the ball in the back of the net.
“It was just about getting back into the routine of being more clinical. When their keeper was making saves and we were getting frustrated, the meetings we had came back into my head - but we got there in the end.”
Signed on an emergency loan to help alleviate the problems caused in the middle of the park by the absence of injury victims John McGinn and Fraser Fyvie, Commons continues to refuse to discuss his future beyond these 28 days, but admitted he’s enjoying life at Easter Road having spent the first half of the season out of new Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers’ plans.
It was the former Scotland internationalist’s first goal since January 15 when he claimed Celtic’s fourth in a 4-1 win over, coincidentally, Dundee United.
And now he’s relishing Friday night’s televised clash with Hibs aiming to open up a four point gap on the Tayside club.
He said: “I’m loving it here. It’s good just to meet such a great bunch of guys who feet are on the ground and who want to work hard. For me it’s a perfect fit because these boys want to win week in, week out and I’ve had that for six years at Celtic.
“We have a big game on Friday and I hope to be involved in that – there should be a good atmosphere,the top two playing against each other.
“The rest of the Celtic boys are off to Dubai – but I’m happy in Edinburgh.”
Lennon conceded that having not played a competitive match since the end of April – and then only as a last minute substitute in a Celtic win over Hearts at Tynecastle – the player he signed for the Hoops from Derby County has been a bit ring rusty, but he’s adamant that however long his stay at Easter Road may be, Commons will continue to have the impact he enjoyed on the final day of 2016.
“He was the man I wanted on the free-kick,” insisted Lennon, “It was an awkward distance but he has that power and quality. I don’t think Danny [Rogers, the Bairns goalkeeper] had a chance.
“I think it went straight through his arms at 80 mph. It will be good for Kris to get off the mark. We know he is not 100 per cent fit, but he can make a difference. He played a beautiful ball for Jason to score the equaliser then he gets the winner. He was fantastic.”
Lennon agreed the victory was an important one for his side, adding: “The players are buoyant. It was a hard fought win but I thought we deserved it on chances alone.”