Revitalised Jason Cummings believes his vibrant support cast at Hibs can help him eclipse last season’s scoring tally this term.
The Easter Road side’s top scorer took his tally for the campaign to 12 when he scored a double in Friday night’s 3-0 win over Championship title rivals Dundee United. The 21-year-old striker has now scored four times in his past four appearances after going a full three months without a goal between mid-September and mid-December, when he became a peripheral figure.
After rediscovering his mojo, Cummings is confident that quality service from the likes of recent recruits Kris Commons and Chris Humphrey, as well as fit-again midfielder John McGinn, can help him finish the season with a flourish as he aims to beat last term’s tally of 25 goals.
“I base my game on scoring goals, and when you have players around you that are that good and give you service like that, then it makes my job easy,” he said. “Twelve goals is a decent return because I haven’t started as many games as I would have liked. I will just keep plugging away, as every game I look to score as many as I can. I want to try and beat my record from last season.”
Cummings was supported in attack by Commons on Friday, six days after the pair had linked up for the 21-year-old’s goal in the victory at Falkirk. Cummings would love to see the 33-year-old Celtic player extend his short-term loan at Easter Road until the end of the season.
“Kris is a great player and everybody can see with his technique that he is way above the level he is playing at,” said Cummings. “He has helped me massively since he came in. It is an absolute joy to play with him as he can see things that most other players can’t. I am learning a lot from him.”
Cummings has benefited from another new signing, with Humphrey setting up both of his goals on what was an encouraging debut from the former Motherwell and Preston North End winger on Friday. “He was different class,” said the striker. “I didn’t know what he was like as a player. I knew he was fast but he surprised me how good he was. We have made an instant connection and he set me up twice for my two goals. It’s a striker’s dream to have wingers like Humphrey and [Martin] Boyle.”
Cummings was thrilled to see his close friend McGinn return to action with a goal following seven weeks on the sidelines recovering from ankle surgery. The Scotland midfielder – nicknamed Meatball – was given a rousing reception when he stepped off the bench in the 78th minute and he duly sealed an emphatic victory with a brilliant solo effort just three minutes later.
“The Meatball came on and it turned into the John McGinn show,” said Cummings. “I don’t know how he sneaked that goal past the keeper. I was honestly delighted for him as he has had a hard time of it with injury over the last few weeks. It was a fitting reward for him because he’s worked so hard.
“He is a massive player for Hibs and he gets the fans going which helps us as well. He is a key player for the team, especially for myself because me and him have built up a good bond on and off the pitch. He knows my runs so I really enjoy playing alongside him.”
Cummings hopes he has now re-established himself as a first pick under Neil Lennon after going almost two months without starting a match prior to last month’s home win over Dumbarton.
“When you are not playing a lot of thoughts go round your head,” he said. “You think ‘I need to come on here and make an impact or I am going to be benched again’ – it’s as simple as that. If you look at the strikers that are on the bench, we all feel that we should be playing, but the manager can only pick 11 players.
“There is more competition for places here and if you look at our bench there are some unbelievable players who should be playing from the start. It helps everyone and keeps us all on our toes and makes us play better. You just want to play well in every game and keep your jersey. Even when I am not playing I try not to get too down or bothered about things. My confidence is high.”
Lennon described Hibs’ performance again United as their best since he took charge last summer. Coming so soon after a dramatic late victory away to Falkirk, it was enough to take them four points clear of the Tayside team at the top of the league. After a sticky patch before Christmas, Cummings admits belief levels are soaring again, but, with 16 games still to play, he insists no-one is taking it for granted that the title is already in the bag.
“We were really good and it clicked for us against Dundee United,” he said. “Everybody was on their ‘A’ game. The keeper had a brilliant save, the back four were solid and big Marvin [Bartley] was man of the match. The boys are flying high at the minute.
“It was a good win for us on Friday but it is far from over. Dundee United are a big club and they are a good team and we don’t want to get too complacent. We will keep our feet firmly on the ground. We’ll go again against Dumbarton [on Saturday] with the same attitude and hopefully get the result and stay top of the table.”