Ask any Hibs fan who is the club’s leading striker and the immediate answer will be Jason Cummings.
The teenager, indeed, has been not only the top scorer at Easter Road but in the Championship itself, his strike against Falkirk taking his tally for the season to 20.
Dominique Malonga, by comparison, has been left in his team-mate’s wake, the Congolese internationalist’s goal to wrap up the 3-0 win over the Bairns which clinched second place making it 16 for the season for him.
However, when the pair’s strike-rate is measured by goals-to-games, it is Malonga who comes out ahead, as his total was achieved in 31 matches, while Cummings’ has come in 40 appearances, making it a goal every other game, fractionally less than his French-born partner.
The more important statistic, though, is that as Alan Stubbs begins his preparations for the first of Hibs play-of matches, still more than a fortnight away, is that both Malonga and Cummings have scored in each of their side’s last three games, clashes with Livingston, Alloa Athletic and Falkirk.
To have both firing at such a critical time of the season can only be described as good news for head coach Stubbs, provided, of course, the enforced lay-off doesn’t halt their momentum. But Malonga for one admitted that if Hibs secure the promotion they’ve been seeking then he won’t mind if he doesn’t find the net again before the end of May.
“The most important thing,” he said, “is that we go up. As a striker you always want to be scoring more goals and it would be good to score. If Hibs go up, and that’s what we have been aiming for all season, then I don’t mind who scores.”
While Malonga and Cummings, obviously, have claimed the vast bulk of the 88 goals Hibs have scored this season, the rest have been shared between 19 others in green-and-white, while two were netted by opposition players.
Although he’s happy with his record, Malonga believes he could perhaps have outgunned his team-mate had it not been for his late arrival at Easter Road, Hibs already six games into the season before he made his debut against Cowdenbeath – scoring from the penalty spot – and a month-long trip to the Africa Cup of Nations which made him miss a further five matches.
Malonga was quickly back on the goal trail after his trip to Equatorial Guinea, scoring twice against Dumbarton before hitting a barren spell which resulted in him spending much of last month on the bench, including the Scottish Cup semi-final against Falkirk when he only got the final three minutes of the game.
He said: “I’ve had a couple of challenges, bad moments, but you learn from that, so it was good for me. I’m happy with 16 goals, but I think I would have scored more had I not gone to the Africa Cup of Nations. But I’m okay and now my only goal is to go up, that’s my biggest challenge.”
Throughout the season Malonga believes he and Cummings have been building an understanding, pointing to how he played in his 19-year-old strike partner for a goal against Alloa, with the compliment repaid on Saturday as Cummings’ pass left him with only Falkirk goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald to beat.
He said: “It’s good for our confidence to both be scoring in games. We are working well together. Jason is not a selfish player and I feel his all-round game is starting to come together as he gains more and more experience. It showed against Falkirk – there were a couple of times he almost created other opportunities for me.
“Goals are good, but it is also important to work hard and I thought the intensity and pressure we played with against Falkirk was good. We did the job we set out to do, to take second place by winning that game so we didn’t have to worry about what was happening between Hearts and Rangers. I wasn’t caring during the game about what was going on at Tynecastle – I was only interested in my team.
“We won, we won well and I think the fans enjoyed it. But now we have to move on and get ready for the play-offs.”
Malonga admitted he’d rather not have the 18 days between matches, Hibs having to wait for the outcome of the play-off quarter-final between Queen of the South and Rangers before they discover their opponents in the first leg of the semi-final, a match which will be played away from home on May 20.
He said: “Two-and-a-half weeks is a long time to wait. For me I’d rather we had the game this weekend, but it is okay. We’ll be well prepared, we have the mentality and I feel confident.”
The two-legged affairs that constitute the play-off ties will be new to those who weren’t at Easter Road last season for those fateful encounters with Hamilton but, again, Malonga professed confidence, saying: “It’s not like the Scottish Cup where you lose one game and you are out.
“We’ll be playing over 180 minutes, not 90 and that’s something you have to bear in mind. But we’ll be focused going into each of them. I’m sure we’ll be ready when they come around. Everyone feels good about the challenges that lie ahead.”