His goals drought over, Hibs striker Jason Cummings is now intent on bettering his tally of last season.
The 21-year-old found himself stuck just one short of that figure for what would seem like an eternity by his standards, six matches passing him by without finding the target.
A glaring miss against Raith Rovers, somehow managing to hit the bar from just a couple of yards out as the Easter Road outfit crashed to a fourth successive Championship defeat followed by seeing a penalty saved as he played for Scotland’s Under-21, suggested the normally cocky youngster was suffering something of a crisis of confidence.
But, as team-mate John McGinn revealed, the old swagger is back, a double as the young Scots came from behind to defeat Northern Ireland in a European Championship qualifier quickly followed by another as he returned to the Paisley 2021 Stadium a few days later to notch another as Alan Stubbs’ players brought their losing streak to an end with a late equaliser against St Mirren.
They went on to go one better in midweek, again displaying their fighting spirit as they overcame the shock of falling behind to Livingston to clinch a win which now has them trailing second placed Falkirk by just three points with two games in hand.
Cummings may not have scored against the Lions but, he insisted, his flick which provided fellow striker Anthony Stokes with the opportunity to level the match before substitute Martin Boyle struck a wonder winner, was proof that his partnership with the on-loan Celtic star, which has been questioned in many quarters, is beginning to pay dividends.
He said: “Stokesy and me get on really well both on and off the pitch. We’re good mates, have a laugh and a bit of banter between us. And on the field we are linking up well as we saw against Livingston. We’re getting a feel for the way we each play.”
Cummings admitted that having partnered Dominique Malonga for the best part of 18 months, it had initially been a case of working on building an understanding with Stokes but, he insisted, it was only a matter of time.
He said: “Every player is different, it was a case of getting used to playing with Stokesy. But he’s a top player, an international striker with the Republic of Ireland, someone who has played high-pressure matches with Celtic and has a great scoring record wherever he has been.”
Part of that record includes 23 goals during Stokes’ previous spell at Easter Road when he and Derek Riordan plundered 41 between them but, claimed Cummings, he’s not interested in smashing his new team-mate’s tally – he’s more concerned with beating last season’s total.
He said: “I got 21 last season – I’ve equalled that now so I just want to get a few more before the season is out.
“I don’t compare myself to anyone, I just want to do better than I have done the previous season and if I can do that then that is good enough for me.”
However, Cummings conceded that winning regardless of who scores is all that concerns Stubbs’ players as they seek to take second place and so ensure a less arduous play-off programme as they bid to return to the Premiership.
To that end, he insisted the win over Livingston was “massive”, while applying the same description to each and every one of the games Hibs face in a month overcrowded with matches.
He said: “Every game is important, every point is vital, but to come back and win as we did against Livingston has lifted everyone’s spirits.
“We’d come back to get what proved to be a big point against St Mirren given Falkirk had also drawn that day and now we’ve reduced the gap with them still to play and with two games in hand.
“Getting second place is crucial as it means you’ll play two games less and with Raith Rovers having secured fourth place and on a great run of results at just the right time, I don’t think anyone would relish facing them home and away first up in the play-offs.”
A visit to relegated Alloa, then, may seem little more than a formality for a rejuvenated Hibs but Cummings, scorer of the only goal of the match last time the Capital club went to the Indodrill Stadium, insisted nothing should be taken for granted.
He said: “The fact they have nothing to play for knowing they are going down can work two ways. They could just chuck it, but I’d imagine it will be the opposite. There’s no pressure on them now so they can go out to express themselves and enjoy the match knowing that for them there’s nothing at stake and that the pressure is on us to win.
“No-one likes going there and playing on their plastic pitch, to be honest, and the fact they narrowed it in an effort to make it even more difficult for visiting teams, cramping the space available for sides like us who like to go and play open, expansive football means it will be tough.
“It will be a hard game but we have been creating chances in games without taking as many as we would have liked so it will be up to us to make sure we take them tomorrow.”