04 Mar Rangers hat-trick hero Jason Cummings gives Graeme Murty a selection headache
Graeme Murty admits he faces an Old Firm dilemma after watching Jason Cummings fire himself into derby contention with his first ever senior hat-trick.
The on-loan Nottingham Forest striker made the most of his chance deputising for injured winger Jamie Murphy as Rangers hammered Falkirk to reach the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-finals.
He bagged twice before the break and claimed the match-ball with his third 14 minutes from time as the Light Blues overcame Paul Hartley’s men 4-1.
Rangers’ reward for that victory is a Hampden date with Celtic next month but before that they host Brendan Rodgers’ treble-chasing Hoops in Ladbrokes Premiership action next Sunday.
But with Murphy battling to be fit for that Ibrox showdown, Murty says he faces a major decision as he weighs up whether or not to stick with hero Cummings.
“It’s a good headache for me to have as Jamie will probably be back fit, so do I then drop someone who has scored a hat-trick?” pondered the Rangers manager.
“At the moment it’s questionable if Jamie will be fit but if I know him, he will be doing everything in his power to convince me he is all right.
“We will have to wait and see. I brought Jason in because he needs minutes and he needs to get some sharpness.
“I thought his finishes were really good and indicative of a player who is hungry to do well.”
Cummings has had to deal with flitting in and out of Murty’s line-up since sealing his January loan switch from the City Ground.
Murty admits the former Hibernian player has struggled to maintain his characteristic cocky outlook but urged the 22-year-old to continue showing his swagger as he looks to trip up Celtic.
“Jason just thrives on life full stop,” he said. “But he has calmed down a bit and shrunk somewhat since he came in. I have challenged him not to do that, to be himself and to be that big gallus guy.
“He said he is frustrated. ‘I want to play’. Well I said you need to move forward and put a line in the sand. Be you, be strong enough to be you.
“Hopefully those goals today will see a spark thrown into him – although I’m not sure the changing room can handle an even livelier Jason Cummings to be honest.”
Cummings fired Rangers ahead after 16 minutes as he beat Bairns goalkeeper Robbie Thomson from a tight angle.
Falkirk skipper Aaron Muirhead levelled for the visitors four minutes later as he deflected a Craig Sibbald strike into the net.
But his goal was quickly cancelled out as Cummings prodded home within a minute of the equaliser before Muirhead then went from hero to zero by putting through his own net just before half-time.
Cummings completed his hat-trick late on as he buried Thomson’s spill from an Alfredo Morelos strike.
Falkirk boss Hartley said: “It was a free hit for us today. But if you switch off at the top end, at the top level, you definitely get punished.”