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Hibernian 0 St Johnstone 0: Scoring goals tops Cummings' wish list now he's stopped kicking the bed

THE request from the member of Hibernian staff who escorted him into the Easter Road media suite was to "be gentle" with Jason Cummings.

St Johnstone's Patrick Cregg was red-carded for this challenge on Hibs' Paul Cairney, less than a minute after coming on, as Gary McDonald looks on. Picture: SNS
St Johnstone's Patrick Cregg was red-carded for this challenge on Hibs' Paul Cairney, less than a minute after coming on, as Gary McDonald looks on. Picture: SNS

The young fella, just 18, had not previously started a game for Hibs and nor had he faced an inquisition from a pack of grizzled football hacks. He handled both with aplomb.

Hibs under Terry Butcher have yet to look markedly different to how they were under Pat Fenlon, but slowly the new manager will deliver a transfusion to change the side. Cummings is one that has been brought in over the past month. He could not score - which makes him perfectly at home among Hibs players, of course - but he was bright and eager, and in the warmth of the media room he spoke glowingly about the club.

Fans of Hibs will like Cummings' back story: he was with Hearts and suffered serious knee problems, but returned and was scoring again only for them to release him ("they pied me", as he put it). Having impressed again with local club Hutchison Vale, when Hearts tried to re-sign him he decided they'd had their chance and accepted an offer from Hibs instead.

"I was at Hearts for about five years. They chucked me. They sent me packing. So I went back to Hutchison Vale, to my roots, for a season. I decided to come to Hibs because it's just so much better than Hearts. It's just a better environment.

"Hearts just didn't give me a chance. They didn't want to take a risk on me. They have already sent me packing once, so I just didn't want to go back. They didn't believe in me then. I was just angry, kicking my bed and that. I remember the phone call saying 'just leave'. I just want to prove Hearts wrong and hopefully I will. Better days now."

Butcher talks about Hibs being a long-term construction project and no-one has ever swooned with excitement watching foundations being laid. In the five games he's had as manager there have been only four goals, either for or against Hibs. They rarely looked like scoring, even after St Johnstone were reduced to 10 men with an hour to go.

The most noteworthy incident in a drab game was Paddy Cregg coming on as a substitute and getting himself sent off 34 seconds later for lunging in on Paul Cairney. Referee Alan Muir got that one right. Still, Hibs fans booed him for booking Scott Robertson for making a show of pacing out the 10 yards when the St Johnstone wall was not far enough back at a free-kick. Muir had to book him, although Robertson's judgment of 10 yards was clearly far more accurate than Muir's. Hibs, predictably, blasted their kick into the wall as if to prove a point.

Hibs were too one-dimensional. They lacked creativity and too many crosses were long diagonals from too far out, giving St Johnstone time to deal with them.

Cummings was energetic and enjoyed his elevation from the youths. "All the players are a bit older [at this level]", he said. "Some are slower, to be fair, but most of them are more aggressive. My legs are in bits. At the under-20 games you see about 50 people, if you're lucky, people with their dug and that. Here there were about 10,000. It's a wee bit more scary. I was a bit intimidated, but it's good. I love it, thrive off it. Once I get my first goal, I'll have the confidence to just keep banging them in. I don't think I scored in my first three or four games game for the 20s, then after that I started scoring hat tricks and that."

A one-match suspension meant Butcher watched in the stand and he admitted it had been sobering to be close enough to hear some of the fans' expletive-laden assessments of the team he has inherited. "You can't repair what's been going on for quite some time in four or five games. If I could do that it would be miraculous."

St Johnstone's defending was solid and composed. The draw was a "magnificent" point in the circumstances, said manager Tommy Wright.

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