Terry Butcher, the Hibernian manager, admitted he had taken a gamble on starting with Jason Cummings last night only for the 18-year-old to help them take a massive step towards avoiding relegation.

Cummings had not scored in his previous 16 appearances but he struck twice as Hibs beat Hamilton Academical in the SPFL Premiership play-off first leg at New Douglas Park. Hibs now have a significant advantage going into the second leg at Easter Road on Sunday. The first goal was a shot from 30 yards and the second a deft chip over goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert.

Butcher inevitably insisted the job was only half done, but he lavished praise on Cummings. "It was a gamble in many ways because he hadn't scored for the first team but he'd played really well and played in winning teams," said the Hibs manager. "You are pinning your faith and hopes on someone who had scored a hatful of goals for the under-20s but not for the first team.

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"He's a confident boy, he has to be to wear some of the gear he wears. It's outrageous, a joke. If he was my son I'd skelp him. But he has a lot of confidence and a lot of talent.

"We didn't know what to do at half-time: our team talks don't normally revolve around a 1-0 lead! And after the game it's a 2-0 lead. Wow, what do we say? It's total disbelief. But it's a lovely feeling. We haven't had this feeling for a long, long time and it's great for the Hibs fans, to be able to send them away happy.

"It's weird because there is still another game to go. Alex Neil [the Hamilton player-manager] will definitely say it's not over and I'm saying that too. And the players too. Hamilton are a good quality side, good passers, they have good players. We will need to have the same focus, appetite and desire in the second leg. It is hard to break away from a bad run but we've done it now. The first goal lifted us enormously."

Neil bemoaned his side's uncharacteristic lack of cutting edge but refused to concede that the tie was over. "The overriding emotions are frustration and disappointment," he said. "In terms of performance, certainly in the first half, we were the dominant side, we played well, knocked the ball around well, created some good opportunities, then we found ourselves 1-0 down to Hibs' first shot on target.

"The tie is difficult now. We have to play as well as we did, but they took their only two shots at goal, and we had six or seven and didn't score. That was the biggest difference."