I'm not setting targets, says Hibs striker Jason Cummings
Trips to Paisley have proved a touch problematical for Hibs down the years as their history of just 34 wins in their previous 112 visits would indicate.
But there were no such difficulties for Neil Lennon’s side as they wrapped up a comprehensive victory to keep their 100 per cent Championship record intact and with it they became the first Hibs team to win their opening three league matches for 42 years.
Such was the dominance of the Edinburgh club it took St Mirren until the 83rd minute to register a shot on target, David Clarkson’s effort easily dealt with by Hibs goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw but provoking ironic cheers from the Buddies’ support.
To be honest, Saints boss Alex Rae only had to look over to the opposite bench to realise it was going to be one of those days, the away dug-out sporting Lennon’s two new signings Andrew Shinnie and Brian Graham in addition to the likes of Fraser Fyvie, Martin Boyle and Jordon Forster.
Shinnie and Graham both got a taste of the action later in the match, each of them having an opportunity to mark the occasion with a goal in a game which was over by half-time thanks to two clinical strikes from the in-form Jason Cummings.
The 21-year-old took his tally to five but after claiming 25 last season he insisted he wasn’t setting himself any targets this time round, revealing: “I did that last season but after hitting it I was terrible.
“So this season, no targets - we’ll just see what happens.”
In stark contrast to Cummings the veteran Grant Holt is still waiting for his first Hibs goal but, insisted his strike partner, the 35-year-old is more than playing his part saying: “Holty is a massive player for us, I love playing with him.
“He’s the bigger guy, very experienced and has played in some big games and he gives me advice on and off the pitch. I just float around him and get the headlines.”
It’s those headlines which have already attracted one bid of £1.7 million – rejected out of hand by the Hibs board – from Peterborough United but, Cummings insisted, his only interest is in scoring the goals which will take the Capital club back into the Premiership.
Nevertheless, Lennon will no doubt breath a sigh of relief when the transfer window closes at the end of the month, the Hibs boss both confident he’ll keep his strengthening squad together but aware that every player has his price.
Obviously with each goal Cummings’ reputation will grow, and his predatory instincts were on full display as he consigned Saints to defeat.
The first embodied Lennon’s intent that Hibs should combine their undoubted style with a more direct approach, John McGinn winning possession inside his own half allowing Dylan McGeouch and James Keatings to release David Gray in acres of space on the right.
Their skipper sucked in Buddies youngster Lewis Morgan before going up a gear to leave him trailing in much the same way Leigh Griffiths did to Hearts defender Faycal Rherras in setting up Celtic’s winner at Tynecastle the other week.
A low cross was met at the near post by Cummings, who had made a run across Saints defence and then showed his nose for a goal. He anticipated something going wrong as Jack Baird prepared to pass the ball back to his goalkeeper Scott Gallacher.
It was two yards wide, enough to leave the former Hearts goalie stranded leaving Cummings with just enough space to slide it home from a tight angle.
“You can prepare all you want,” sighed disappointed Saints boss Alex Rae, “but you can’t legislate for that.
“Such a cheap goal left us with a mountain to climb. We were left chasing the game but also conscious of not wanting a doing.
“We tried to work our way back in, but it never came and the game fizzled out.”
There may have been no more goals as the 1,548 travelling fans who made up a third of the gate might have anticipated.
But overall this was a good, solid performance from Hibs, full-backs Gray and Lewis Stevenson giving them width, central defenders Darren McGregor and Paul Hanlon snuffing out any threat as Rae rotated his strikers, and Marvin Bartley anchoring the midfield to allow McGinn. McGeouch and Keatings the freedom to get forward in support of the front two.
“I thought our victory was a credit to the way we played,” claimed Cummings.
–––“I thought we were really good. The midfield was brilliant and big Marv played a massive part but a lot of people would not see what he does off the ball.
“I got two but I did have other chances although getting the three points was the main thing.”
Lennon was adamant Cummings could have had four, admitting that if he had any criticism of his side it was the fact they still aren’t scoring as many goals as they chances they create should allow them to do.
He said: “We could have been four up at half-time. We had good control of the game.
“I was really pleased with our performance, but Jason had two one-on-ones. He is a fantastic finisher, but he can become a bit complacent.”
Lennon could be heard barking at Cummings – who wasn’t alone in attracting the voice of his manager – who said: “Like any player if the start to get sloppy they have to be reminded.
“Jason, though, doesn’t go under, he goes the other way. He has a good appetite for the game.”
Having shared his belief that “something is brewing” at Easter Road, Lennon insisted the importance will now be in ensuring this early-season momentum is maintained as his squad grows ever stronger.
He was happy with the cameo roles both Shinnie and Graham played, saying: “Brian only signed the night before and Andrew came in last Wednesday, meaning he only trained Thursday and Friday with us.
“They have qualities and will add to what we already have. Brian should have wrapped the game up at the end. Andrew had a couple of chances and John McGinn has hit the bar.”