Hibs' James McPake backs Leigh Griffiths to shine in Cup final

Griffiths (left) celebrates his winning goal against Aberdeen
Griffiths (left) celebrates his winning goal against Aberdeen

Hibernian captain James McPake has backed Leigh Griffiths to be a Hampden match winner again after taking their side to the Scottish Cup final.

The striker, often a controversial figure, scored with five minutes remaining as Hibs beat Aberdeen 2-1.

"He's still learning, he's only a young boy and maybe a lot of people forget that and criticise him," said McPake.

"But we'll look after him and he could be the difference again in the final as he was against Aberdeen."

Manager Pat Fenlon had issued a public warning to Griffiths in January after he picked up a couple of suspensions for gestures made at fans.

McPake is well aware of the 21-year-old's character having been a team-mate when Griffiths made the breakthrough a Livingston.

"I've known him since he was 16 and he was the exact same," said the Hibs captain, who has since coverted from a striker to defender.

"He is a handful for defenders, he's a top player and will go on to be an even better player."

Like Griffiths, who has been farmed out to Hibs from Wolves, McPake is on loan at Easter Road.

McPake shows his delight after the victory over Aberdeen
McPake shows his delight after the victory over Aberdeen

"Six months ago, I was rotting away in a stand at Coventry," said the defender.

"Now on the 19 May I am going to be back at Hampden for a Scottish Cup final and hoping to be the first player in 110 years to lift the cup for what is a fantastic club."

Griffiths returned the compliment by praising the role played by McPake

"The big man and Paul Hanlon were rocks at the back," he said.

"You have to hand it to Rory Fallon, it was an absolute wonder goal and, to be fair, Aberdeen had a good 10-15 minutes.

"But I think as soon as we got the second goal their heads dropped a bit and their fans got a big concerned and thankfully we managed to hold out."

Griffiths did not rise to the suggestion that he had answered his critics with his goal at Hampden.

"The press can say what they want about me," he added.

"I'll just do my business on the park and, as you have seen, I have scored the winning goal and got Hibs into a Scottish Cup final.

"It's magnificent. It is a great occasion and we're absolutely delighted to be in the final."

Hearts face Scottish champions Celtic on Sunday and a win for the former would set up an Edinburgh derby in the final.

However, Griffiths and McPake both agreed that they did not have a preference for either opponent on 19 May.