The Hibs players will be waking up this morning wondering how they don’t have a League Cup winner’s medal to their name.
I’ve got real sympathy for them because I felt they dominated most of the final and couldn’t have given much more. As supporters I don’t think we can have any complaints about the effort or desire from the players, but ultimately we’ve been punished by two breakaway goals from Ross County.
We looked really strong in midfield and at the back but two counter-attacks have killed us. The focus is on Liam Fontaine for his part in their winner, but I won’t be blaming him. When you commit men forward and get caught on the break, these type of desperate clearances can happen, especially late in the game. It could have been any one of our defenders in that position.
As a team, we took a risk by playing in such an attacking manner, but that’s just the way we approach the game. We like to play on the front foot and dominate possession and it’s worked for us more often than not under Alan Stubbs, but unfortunately this time we’ve been picked off twice and it’s cost us the cup.
I have to say I didn’t see them nicking it at all. Once we got back to 1-1, I always felt confident we’d go on and win it. For me, we were the only team going to win it. We were the better team for most of the game, but we just couldn’t get our noses in front. If Anthony Stokes had scored with the shot that went just past in the second half, I think we’d have gone on and won it because we were looking strong at that point.
The only gripe I’d have about our performance is that we seemed to lack a bit of sharpness in the final third, which is surprising given the fact we have two quality finishers in Jason Cummings and Stokes.
The two of them are similar players so that may be a factor in why they’ve not quite clicked yet. We also have to remember that this is only Cummings’ second full season in professional football, so it’s asking a lot to hang your hat on him to win us a cup. He would have had a lot of pressure on his shoulders to go into a final as our main striker at such a young age. Even then, he had a couple of decent efforts, but their keeper made some good saves to deny him. On the day, it just didn’t go for him or his team-mates.
As a team, these boys are going to have lift themselves for a massive match in Inverness on Wednesday. As much as they’ll be hurting right now, a Scottish Cup quarter-final is probably a good game for them to come back to. What happened yesterday should make them determined to respond positively against Inverness and give themselves a chance to get back to Hampden and put things right. There’s no point in feeling sorry for themselves. They’ve got to get in the right frame of mind for Wednesday. They’ve bounced back from setbacks before and there’s no reason they can’t do it again.
I think they can do it. They’ve beaten better teams than Inverness this season and, even though they lost yesterday, they dominated most of the game. They’re more than capable of going up to the Caledonian Stadium and getting a result but they need to get their heads right quickly.
It wouldn’t look good if we were to go out of the Scottish Cup just days after losing a League Cup final. It was only a few weeks ago there was loads of optimism about the club and we were in the hunt for three trophies, so it would be pretty hard to take if we were to lose on Wednesday. On the flip side, if we can get through, it would help ease the pain of yesterday and give us fresh impetus for the last two months of the season. In many ways, this game could make or break us because, after being in such a good position recently, it would demoralising for the supporters if all we had to look forward to between now and May was waiting to see if we could go up through the play-offs.