Liam Fontaine today set his sights on a record-breaking season after claiming his first goal for Hibs.
The Easter Road defender is the first to admit he’s not the most prolific in front of goal and the stats prove it. His header in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Raith Rovers was only his eighth goal in some 320 starts throughout his career and he’s only ever managed two at the most in a season.
However, the 28-year-old now wants to be among the goalscorers on a more regular basis, aiming to have “five or six” to his name before the campaign draws to an end.
Fontaine, who spent eight years with Bristol City after spells at Fulham, Yeovil and Kilmarnock, became the 15th Hibs player to find the net so far, his bullet header at Stark’s Park paving the way for back-to-back league wins for the first time in 2014 for the Capital outfit.
The fact it had come from a set-piece worked on at the club’s East Mains training centre – a short corner routine involving Scott Allan and Dominique Malonga before the former’s cross for Fontaine – made the moment all the sweeter as far as the big Englishman was concerned, with the goal rewarding boss Alan Stubbs, assistant Andy Holden and first-team coach John Doolan for all their work on the training ground.
And, with Hibs having forced an astonishing 42 corners in their last four matches, Fontaine is confident plenty more opportunities will arise, insisting his goal had been long overdue.
Pointing to how he had two headers in quick succession taken off the line before Hibs opened the scoring in the recent 6-3 win over Dumbarton, Fontaine said: “To be fair, I’ve felt as if a goal was coming.
“I’d gone close on a few occasions. Those two against Dumbarton stand out, while I’d also had an early chance against Alloa last week which went straight into the goalkeeper’s arms, so I was delighted to see that one go in.
“It was particularly pleasing that the goal came from a set piece. We work on them with John and Taff [Holden] so it’s great when that work pays off.”
Now that he’s up and running for the season, Fontaine has set his sights high for the rest of the campaign.
“I can’t say I’m a prolific goalscorer, but I feel I have a chance of scoring every week going up for corners and free-kicks,” he revealed. “If I can chip in with five or six this season that will help the team. That’s my aim, but my main job is to stop them at the other end. If I can do both, then I’d be delighted.”
Fontaine’s goal came after a Jason Cummings strike on the stroke of half-time had cancelled out Barrie McKay’s opener for the Kirkcaldy club, with Malonga ensuring victory as he latched on to Paul Hanlon’s pass to notch his 11th of the season and secure a 3-1 win.
Cummings’ effort, Fontaine agreed, had come at just the right moment, only five minutes after Raith had nosed in front, somewhat against the run of play given the string of saves Rovers’ goalkeeper David McGurn was forced to make, while both David Gray and Liam Craig were just unable to convert promising openings.
He said: “I thought we’d dominated the game all over the pitch from the first minute, only to be hit with that sucker punch, a goal definitely against the run of play.
“I think you could argue we might have been more clinical with the chances we’d had – we could have been three up early doors – but when we concede a goal we don’t crumble. We fight and I think anyone watching can see we are playing full of confidence and enjoying our football. Having said that, it was important to get the equaliser before half-time – it probably felt like a kick in the teeth for them.
“Then to score twice in the space of a few minutes simply killed the game. We were all delighted. It was a heavy pitch, another away game and it was good to have come away with back-to-back wins before the year is out.”
An added bonus was coming off to discover the result had lifted Hibs above Queen of the South and into third place in the Championship table – even if it was only on goal difference – after the Doonhamers were beaten, somewhat surprisingly, at home by Cowdenbeath.
Although he agreed with boss Stubbs that doesn’t count for a lot at this particular moment in time, Fontaine believes that subtle movement can only help add to the feelgood factor.
“Obviously the most important thing for us is to concentrate on ourselves and getting the three points from our games and what will be will be come the end of the season,” he said.
“Hopefully with the quality we have we’ll be right up there at that time, but to see a positive change in league position is obviously a good thing. It gives everyone a bit of a lift, although there’s still a lot of games to be played.”
With those wins against Alloa and Raith having proved the defeat at Falkirk was no more than a “blip” – Hibs’ only defeat in their last 12 league matches – Fontaine believes he and his team-mates can look forward to the coming matches against Rangers and Hearts with justified optimism.
He said: “These two games are very important for us. We know we’ll have to perform to our best in both of them, but we’ve a lot of confidence. There’s a great team spirit amongst us and we’ve set ourselves up nicely for them with our last two results.”