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Opening up a tin of beans feeds belief in Cummings

THERE is a lot to be said for spontaneity.

Jason Cummings has been told to keep his feet on the ground by the experienced players at Hibs after scoring twice in Hamilton. Picture: SNS
Jason Cummings has been told to keep his feet on the ground by the experienced players at Hibs after scoring twice in Hamilton. Picture: SNS

Hibernian have been plugging along for weeks, desperately trying to find a foothold to arrest their slide towards the SPFL Championship. Terry Butcher has sounded like a manager at his wit's end about how to turn around their seemingly terminal decline.

What may have saved him, and Hibs, was the sort of moment which is beyond any coach's manual. Jason Cummings collected a stray ball in Hamilton the other night and lashed a shot into the net from 30 yards. Simple as that. At a stroke, it felt like the slate was wiped clean.

Butcher must have felt like running on the pitch to hug his 18-year-old saviour, and all the more so when Cummings dinked home another goal in the second half. Hibs now have some clear blue water between them and Hamilton in the Premiership play-off. The second leg at Easter Road is still losable - one early away goal and Hibs' white shorts will start to discolour - but it felt like a corner had been turned at New Douglas Park. Even Hibs would have to go some to mess things up.

Cummings is an irrepressible lad. He is Edinburgh's equivalent of gallus. After unloading on Hamilton he delivered again for the Sky Sports cameras, saying his shot for the opening goal had "opened up a tin of beans". His amused team-mate, Michael Nelson later translated that one: "It's just that his left foot is so good he can open a tin of beans with it. I don't think he knows that is what it means! He just said it. He has heard someone else say it so he has thought 'I'll say it'. The beauty of it is that he has that rawness and that naivety that nothing bothers him."

Cummings was with Hearts and was dropped by them after he suffered a serious injury. When he rebuilt his form, with local club Hutchison Vale, Hearts tried to get him back. He told them where to go and joined Hibs instead.

The play-off marked his 17th appearance in the first team this season and his first goals. More than that, they cut through the gloom which had enveloped Hibs for weeks.

"It does not faze Jason," said Nelson. "Hopefully that quality will stick with him and he will keep that for years to come. It probably will wear off the more he plays but hopefully if he does well and keeps that quality he will have a very successful career.

"Straight after the game I told him to keep his feet on the ground and concentrate on Sunday. I have seen a lot of players start their careers brilliantly and then fade away. They are still at home saying: 'I was unlucky, what a player I could have been, but the manager didn't like me'.

"It is important we try and keep his feet on the ground so he does not become one of those statistics. We have to make sure he thrives and has a good career.

"I think you saw the variety he has got in the two goals he scored, they were two completely different finishes. One he just put his head down and absolutely smashed it from the edge of the box and the other one he had the coolness and the calmness just to dink it, and he wasn't bothered - he didn't even look back at the net.

"Those goals have been a long time coming for him and I think his performances have warranted more goals than he actually scored. I'm delighted for him that he has done it in such a big and important game and hopefully he can kick on again on Sunday."

Hibs have two jobs left this season: to concentrate and to defend. If they focus and work as well as they did on Wednesday it is difficult to see Hamilton recovering from a two-goal deficit. Hibs have been justifiably criticised during the abysmal run during which they sank from mid-table to 11th, with Nelson and his fellow defenders being singled out for particularly negative attention. It was to Nelson's credit that he accepted all of it maturely without complaint.

"People have been writing us off for weeks, months," he said. "We have not really produced or shown anything to give people cause not to write us off. It's our own doing. You don't get bad press for that long a period when it's not warranted. Some of it was warranted, some of it might be hard for some to take but we fully deserve what has been written.

"You cannot hide from the stats. But our league finished against Kilmarnock [the 1-0 home defeat on the final day which condemned them to the play-off] so league form is irrelevant, it's a different competition altogether.

"People say it's like a cup final. But it's two games to get yourself through it and we are half way there. By no means will we be setting up any differently, I would imagine, in the next game.

"I have been in play-off situations before, not at this end of the table, but at the other end. You just go again. You don't look back. We win [on Sunday] and that's it. It's done."

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