It may again have produced plenty of drama for the fans, but Hibs midfielder Scott Robertson today insisted a second successive last-ditch victory at Easter Road was more than enough compensation for their shredded nerves.
After watching Sam Stanton hit a last-minute winner in the League Cup clash with Dumbarton, the supporters had to wait even longer – four minutes into added-on time – to see Jason Cummings complete another comeback as Alan Stubbs’ side eventually saw off Championship basement outfit Cowdenbeath.
But while admitting most would have expected to have seen Stubbs’ players comfortably see the game out after Jordon Forster had given them the lead midway through the first half, Robertson claimed the two 3-2 wins against Dumbarton and now Cowdenbeath simply underlined the competitiveness of the second tier of Scottish football and made a mockery of the notion this season is all about the big three – Hibs, Hearts and Rangers.
Pointing to Ian Murray’s Dumbarton having ended Hearts’ perfect start to the campaign by holding the Jambos to a scoreless draw, Robertson said: “People expect us to steamroller other teams like Cowdenbeath, but I think that is being a little bit unfair and disrespectful to those clubs.
“We had it tough against Dumbarton, but eventually beat them, and then they go and draw with Hearts. It just shows there are no easy games in this league. The other teams have players who have played at a good level and know what’s needed. I can only speak for myself, but I certainly don’t have the mindset that because we’ve come down from the Premiership we should feel it will be easier for us. You have to earn the right to win games. There are no teams who are just going to let you play, especially when they come to Easter Road.
“It’s a bit of a change for teams like Cowdenbeath and they are gong to be up for it and probably look on us as being a bit of a scalp.”
Central Park boss Jimmy Nicholl made no apologies for initially adopting a defensive formation against Hibs, Cowdenbeath posing little threat throughout a first half in which Forster’s powerful header gave the home side a slender lead.
But a subtle change brought the Blue Brazil two quick-fire goals from Sean Higgins and Jon Robertson, leaving Stubbs’ players facing a fourth successive defeat until substitutes Dominique Malonga and Cummings secured those much-needed three points.
And in doing so, Robertson insisted, he and his team-mates showed they are capable of “winning ugly”. The former Dundee, Dundee United and Blackpool player said: “The way we are playing teams are going to get behind the ball and make it difficult for us.
“I think we have been playing good football, but against Cowdenbeath our goals came from a set-piece, a penalty and a ball which had ricocheted about the box. It’s not just about playing pretty football. That’s great to watch, but our goals didn’t come from that. We had plenty of passing, but in the end it was a bit of grit and determination which saw us home.”
And the late winners, Robertson revealed, could be put down to the work being put in at Hibs’ East Mains training centre under the supervision of strength and conditioning coach Paul Green and head of sports science and fitness Craig Flannigan, part of the impressive backroom team put together by head coach Stubbs.
He said: “They’ve been working really hard on our fitness, topping it up every week. It’s a big thing for the manager and late winners in our last two games at home shows we can go right to the end of matches.”
The work of Green and Flannigan will, Robertson believes, be evident to see in the coming weeks as Malogna, signed after the transfer deadline as a free agent following Farid El Alagui being ruled out for months with a ruptured Achilles tendon, is brought up to speed.
The Paris-born striker stepped off the bench as a second-half substitute to produce an impressive display, leaving Robertson to say: “Dom is a confident boy. He’ll admit he’s a bit off in terms of fitness, but when he gets up there we are going to see a really powerful player in this league.
“Jason wanted to take the penalty, but Dom stood up and stuck it away superbly.”
Cummings had to wait just a little longer for his first goal at Easter Road, tucking away a loose ball to leave Cowdenbeath, in the words of their captain John Armstrong, “devastated”, and Robertson delighted to see his teenage team-mate become the hero.
He said: “I think Jason is a boy who is going to do really well. He has an eye for a goal, as his record for the Under-20s shows. When he was in the team last season I thought he was a bit unlucky not to score on several occasions, but I think the way we are playing suits him. He’s always looking to get a shot away.”
Even so, Robertson admitted he didn’t realise how deep into time added on by referee John McKendrick the game had gone before Cummings struck, the lack of a fourth official in the Championship meaning there’s no clue as to how many extra minutes are to be added – not that he pays any attention to the board which fans have become accustomed to seeing raised towards the end of matches.
He said: “Cowdenbeath had wasted a bit of time, which perhaps helped us because we got there in the end, but I don’t look at the board when it goes up. I sometimes see the clock on the South Stand has stopped at 90 minutes so you know the end is near, but in any case you just keep going, trying to drive on and find that winner.”
And Robertson admitted coming off to discover Hearts had been held to a draw at Dumbarton, their lead cut to seven points when, at one stage it appeared the gap between the Capital clubs might increase once again, was something of a bonus.
He said: “All we can do is win our games. If we come off the pitch and discover other results have gone our way as some did at the weekend then it is a wee bonus, although the better feeling is that you’ve won your own three points.”