Neil Lennon is encouraged by Jason Cummings’ hunger to re-establish himself in the Hibs team, even though the beleaguered striker suffered the ignominy of being sent off in a Development League match on Tuesday.
The 21-year-old has played only three minutes of the senior side’s last three matches after being demoted to the bench following his failure to find the net since the home defeat by Ayr United in mid-September. Lennon described Cummings as “off-colour” when addressing shareholders at Monday’s annual general meeting and was hopeful that a spell on the sidelines would “reinvigorate” him.
The following day the striker scored for the under-20 team against Kilmarnock before being sent off for swearing at a linesman in reaction to an offside call. Lennon was at the game at the Oriam and, although he is likely to sanction Cummings for this breach of discipline, he saw plenty of positive signs from the hitman prior to his dismissal and is pondering using him more prominently against Falkirk at Easter Road tomorrow.
“It was frustrating for him,” Lennon said of the red-card incident. “Listen, we’ve all done it. We’ve all lost our temper at an official. Whether it warranted a red card or not is debatable. I had a quick chat with Jason [yesterday morning] and he will be dealt with, perhaps by making a contribution to a club charity, and he realises that. But he will be in contention to play against Falkirk.
“Looking at him on Tuesday, he was outstanding. I was really pleased with him up until the sending-off. While he might be disappointed in not playing, he is not showing that on the pitch and I was really pleased with how he set about that match. We can’t condone dissent, but we’ve all done it and I’m not going to throw the rule book at him. We’ve spoken and he has trained well. While there has been a lot of talk about him not playing, there have been signs of him improving and forcing his way back into the team.
“We are only talking about a couple of weeks where things haven’t gone right but, looking at him on Tuesday, there’s nothing wrong with him at all. He has the bit between his teeth. He understands that he will play a heavy role if we are to win anything this season and I am happy with how he is reacting to things.”
Lennon is hopeful that the injury sustained by goalkeeper Ofir Marciano is not a serious one. The Israeli took a blow to his knee while training with his national team on Wednesday and subsequently withdrew from the squad for their World Cup qualifier in Albania tomorrow.
“Ofir has taken a knock so he has had a scan to assess how serious it is,” said Lennon. “He has done some light training since then and, if it had been very serious, then that wouldn’t have been possible. There is a bit of swelling around the knee so he will fly back for treatment. We are still waiting on tenterhooks to see how serious it is but we are hopeful it is not too severe.”
Ross Laidlaw will deputise for Marciano tomorrow, while midfielder John McGinn’s involvement against the Bairns will be determined by what part he plays for Scotland against England at Wembley tonight.
“Dylan McGeouch played 90 minutes [for the development team] on Tuesday so he is in contention and I have got Marvin Bartley and Scott Martin, so I have got ready-made replacements for John,” said Lennon. “We are still confident we will get him back in time and rested enough to play, but it depends on how much of a contribution he has at Wembley, if at all.”