The Capital side’s 1-0 victory over Dundee United on Friday night left the Tannadice outfit trailing them by ten points, but Falkirk have quietly slipped into second place, six points behind Neil Lennon’s players, albeit with a game more played.
And that, insisted Shinnie, underlined the importance of the victory on Tayside, one which ended a run of four league games without a win.
The midfielder said: “It was a massive three points. We needed to get back to winning ways in the league. It’s always difficult going to Tannadice, but we managed to get the three points, keep a clean sheet and extend our lead over United.”
Asked if he felt the title was now Hibs’ to lose, Shinnie said: “It is because we are top of the league and we have a good gap – but by a long way it’s not done. There’s games to be played.
“They are all difficult in this league and if we slip up, the gap gets smaller. But this was a massive win and it gives us a massive boost. We will be confident going into the next game [Dumbarton at home on Saturday] and it’s up to the other teams to stay with us.”
Shinnie played his part in the only goal of the game with an assist for Jason Cummings’ 20th goal of the season. The on-loan Birmingham midfielder said: “You always fancy Jason when he is one-on-one, he is always someone we can rely on. He is a big game player and gets us goals when we need them.”
Cummings, though, went from saint to sinner, picking up two stupid yellow cards in the space of three minutes late in the second half to leave his side down to ten men, like United who had lost Lewis Toshney early in the game.
And while it turned out all right on the night, Shinnie admitted Cummings’ idiocy could have cost Hibs dearly. Booked for a show of petulance after being caught offside, the 21-year-old then used a hand to direct skipper David Gray’s cross into the net, leaving referee Don Robertson with no choice but to send him off.
Shinnie said: “It was clear from the noise it had slapped off his hand. He had been booked a couple of minutes earlier so everyone knew he was off. It made it a bit difficult for us near the end.
“It was a bit annoying because we were comfortable in the game, in control, they weren’t causing us any trouble. But it gave them and their fans a lift. They launched a few balls into our box but the boys at the back dealt with them.
“It didn’t cost us in the end but it might have done, it might have ended up a draw – but we move on. Jason apologised to all the lads but no-one could have a go at him because he has been unbelievable for us this season, we wouldn’t be where we are without him.”
Adamant Hibs have the squad to deal with Cummings’ absence this weekend, Shinnie agreed the fact Lennon’s players now have a few weeks to concentrate on league business before facing Aberdeen in the semi-final of Scottish Cup as they continue their bid to retain the trophy will also help.
He said: “We haven’t been ourselves really in the league. Teams have made it difficult for us, but that’s what made United a massive game. We were under pressure to bounce back and we have.”