James Keatings backs Hibs team-mate Jason Cummings to down Hearts

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The chances are that few of the recent influx of new players at Tynecastle will have heard much, if anything, about Jason Cummings.

But, insisted his Hibs team-mate James Keatings, it won’t take long for the precocious youngster to introduce himself to the likes of Aaron Hughes, Andraz Struna, Tasos Avlontis and Alex Tziolis.

Jason Cummings, far right, celebrates after he equalised for Hibs against Raith Rovers. The Hibees, however, could not find the winner. Pic: SNS

Jason Cummings, far right, celebrates after he equalised for Hibs against Raith Rovers. The Hibees, however, could not find the winner. Pic: SNS

Cummings took his 
goals tally for the season to 
15 as he stepped off the 
bench to salvage a point in a bitterly disappointing performance against Ayr United and Keatings is backing 
the 21-year-old to revel in Sunday’s Scottish Cup clash between the Capital’s greatest foes given Cummings obvious relish for playing at the Gorgie ground and against the club which released him as a teenager.

It was Cummings who sparked that remarkable fightback at Tynecastle at the same stage of the competition last season, his glancing header followed by a last-minute equaliser by Paul Hanlon, leaving the Easter Road striker to finish the job with the only goal of the replay.

The rest, as they say, is history, Hibs going on to lift the trophy which had eluded them for 114 years in equally dramatic fashion against Rangers at Hampden.

Now Neil Lennon’s players are well aware that Hearts would like nothing more than to make amends by ending their cup dream this time round, Ian Cathro’s new-look Jambos going into the lunchtime game on a high following impressive results against Rangers and Motherwell.

James Keatings

James Keatings

Those victories have most definitely given the Hearts support, many of whom were feeling uneasy at the visit of their city neighbours, renewed optimism which has possibly been tweaked again by Hibs failure to defeat Ayr, Keatings describing his side’s first half performance as “probably one of the worst I have ever played in”.

However, he warned that 
the Jambos under-estimate Hibs at their peril with Cummings – who has scored four goals in his last three visits to Tynecastle and in each of his last four derbies – the clear danger man.

He said: “Jason is obviously someone for them to be wary of with his record there and against Hearts. He’s done that irrespective of who we’ve been playing, so I am sure they’ll be keeping a close eye on him.

“Jason was at Hearts, so he probably feels he always has a point to prove. They let him go when he was younger and he’s come back to haunt them a bit. It was a big thing being a young boy trying to make you way only to be turned back, but he’s come to Hibs, scored a lot of goals and shown how good he is.

“He wants to score in every game he plays, but possibly more so against the club that let him go. He’s a goal-scorer, he’ll be in and around the box so it is up to the boys to get the ball into him and create chances.

“If we do that then we have every confidence Jason will score.”

Keatings admitted the 
radical changes Cathro has 
initiated at Tynecastle will have made preparing for the game possibly more difficult than usual, particularly in regard to players brought in from abroad.

But, equally, by his reckoning those new arrivals won’t have a thorough insight into the capabilities of Lennon’s squad.

He said: “It’s maybe 
made it a bit harder for our scouting system with a number of them having not played much in Scotland, but at the end of the day it’s 11 on the pitch for both teams. Whoever wants it the most will get it and everyone in our team wants it a lot.

“It happens that you come up against players you don’t know a lot about so you try to suss your opponent out as quickly as possible, his strengths and any weakness you can try to exploit.”

Keatings, of course, has seen an Edinburgh derby from both sides of the fence following a season from Hearts but his approach doesn’t differ.

He said: “It’s a derby match. It means everything to the fans, the club and the players themselves. It’s against your biggest rivals so you aim to put everything into it and if you win it’s so much sweeter.

“Hearts are at home coming off two good results so they’ll be going into the game 
confident, but we know we have a good team, a good squad and we’ll be going there looking to win.

“It’s all been pretty even between the clubs these last couple of seasons. The year before last there was a win apiece and two draws and then we all know what happened this time last year.

“Everyone says there is a massive gap between the Premiership and the Championship – but there isn’t. We have a squad I personally think is a Premiership squad so it’s up to us on the day to go and show our class and see where it takes us.

“Hearts have come up with good results, we are coming off a disappointing one but we’ll be going into Sunday with a gameplan which we’ll try to play out as much as possible and hopefully we can go there and do what we have done in the past.”

The obvious explanation for that dire opening 45 minutes against Ayr would be that Keatings and his team-mates had let their minds wander from the task in hand, but the 25-year-old said that wasn’t the case.

“Definitely not,” he claimed, “We’d maybe spoken about the derby when the draw was made, but not since. Our main priority is getting out of this league. We simply didn’t play as well as we should have.

“Our preparation all week was good, we trained well and all we had talked about was Ayr, Hearts were never mentioned. So there are no excuses. It was an off day, a massive off day and it was not acceptable.

“The first 45 minutes was probably the worst performance I have ever played in. But we all knew that, we had a go at each other at half-time and said it had to improve, although it couldn’t have got much worse to be honest.

“The fans turn out in their numbers to support as and we just didn’t give them the performance they deserve, it was a frustrating day for us all.

“We picked it up in the 
second half and were more like ourselves although they made it difficult for us.

“We knew they were going to sit in when they got the first goal, but the frustrating thing was we made more than enough opportunities to win the game but didn’t take them.

“Jason came on and scored, but we just couldn’t get that second one to win it.”