{"JP":[ {"NewsSection":{"name":"hibs","detaillevel":"full", "Articles": {"count":25,"detaillevel":"full","articlesList":[ {"article": { "url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/our-region/edinburgh/footballer-s-behaving-badly-hibs-star-peter-marinello-1-4430158","id":"1.4430158","articleHeadline": "Footballer’s Behaving Badly: Hibs star Peter Marinello","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1493212958000 ,"articleLead": "

Scotland’s answer to George Best, natural talent Peter Marinello had the skills and fashionable looks but he was far from a model professional off the football pitch, writes Sandra Dick.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4430156.1493212952!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Peter Marinello in his Motherwell strip in the late 1970s. Picture: SNS Group"} ,"articleBody": "

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Fame and fortune shone on Peter Marinello. Gifted with a natural footballing talent, he had the added advantage of striking looks, a fun-loving personality and a sharp fashion sense that had the girls hooked.

No wonder he quickly became known as Scotland’s George Best.

It was 1970 and the world was at his feet. The 19-year-old Hibs winger, so inventive and confident on the park, was on the cusp of greatness – Arsenal had just paid 100,000 for him, and he was in demand to appear on Top of the Pops and as a fashion model.

Life looked on course to pan out perfectly for a lad raised in a Broomhouse prefab, who honed his soccer skills on the nearest stretch of spare ground.

Sadly, though, the “George Best” tag was to prove uncannily accurate: soon Peter Marinello’s name would go down in history among those players for whom football greatness became a curse.

He was just 15 when he signed for Hibs, having first shrewdly warned them that England legend Stanley Matthews wanted to sign him for Port Vale.

In fact, Hibs were the only team he wanted to play for. “I was a Hibs fan – my family were living in Logie Green at that time. I’d supported Hearts when we were in Broomhouse but you learn which team to follow when you move to Leith.”

He loved the club and times were good, although at times – as was to become the regular case with Marinello – downright bizarre.

At the age of 18 and despite his best efforts still a “good” Catholic boy, he would join his Hibs teammates on a tour of Nigeria and Ghana, just as the Biafran War was breaking out.

Team-mate Jimmy O’Rourke decided to give him a late 18th birthday present he’d never forget – the loss of his virginity to a local “lady of the night”, all the while egged on by a crowd of around 20 Hibs team-mates, seated, cheering, in a half circle around the bed.

It wasn’t the only memorable moment of the tour – Marinello later recalled arriving at an island in Ghana where the lads spotted some locals’ canoes and began messing around with them.

“Amused they were not,” recalled Peter in his biography, Fallen Idle. “It was even less funny when I was snatched and frogmarched 200 yards.

“The local fishermen were convinced that we had damaged their boats and they indicated that, unless Hibernian Football Club were prepared to foot the bill for repairs, they could kiss goodbye to Peter Marinello.”

He was restrained, hands tied behind his back while the team haggled for 40 anxious minutes before accepting the demands.

A year later as he signed for Arsenal to become one of the highest-paid players in the game, Marinello must have believed that life in London surely couldn’t be quite as bizarre...

“I was still upset at leaving Hibs,” he recalls. “I was enjoying myself, I had a few bob, I liked buying nice suits and going out for a drink with the Hibs team.

“Willie MacFarlane, the Hibs manager, said I was getting out of control, he brought in another player and I was the last to know I was being sold.”

200 Voices: find out more about the people who have shaped Scotland

His three years at Arsenal would often prove frustrating football-wise, but London offered bright lights and endless opportunities to relieve him of his earnings.

The birth of his first son, Paul, in 1972 – a year before he shunned Arsenal’s pleas and moved to Portsmouth – was to have a resounding impact on his life. It plunged his wife, Joyce, into post-natal depression which would evolve into a lifelong struggle.

Her condition wasn’t helped, perhaps, by her husband’s off the pitch activities. Drinking – he once said he didn’t have “a favourite drink, as long as it was wet” – gambling and unfortunate business investments were eating into his big money salary.

His journeyman career took him to Motherwell and America before he returned to Edinburgh, this time in a maroon jersey and the beginning of the end for a player who once held so much promise.

“I was fine about going to Hearts,” he recalls. “I’d been raised in that part of town and it was part of my childhood. The fans were good to me, too.”

Edinburgh, his hometown, seemed to offer a chance to finally settle and Marinello set about putting down business roots. He converted a house with a friend and, buoyed by that success, took on another property and dipped his toe into a trade he knew well.

“I bought a couple of pubs, one in Lauriston Place, the other in Leith Walk,” he recalls.

Marinello played 36 times for Hearts – scoring on five occasions – between October 1981 and March 1983, when his old Hibs team-mate, Peter Cormack, signed him for Partick Thistle. Injury, however, put paid to his career just as the business behind his pubs started to collapse.

“I was too trusting,” he recalls. “I started making big mistakes.”

Haunted by the loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds, Marinello lost himself in booze and at the bookies. Money was running out. His final make-or-break deal was a 150,000 investment in a Spanish nightclub.

“My wife was in hospital and I was looking after two kids,” he recalls. “We ended up with nowhere to stay, so we lived at Butlin’s in Skegness while we waited and waited for the money.

“But I’d made a contract with a conman. He disappeared and I wasn’t going to get my money.”

Pushed to the edge, he finally snapped. It wasn’t hard to find someone in London to supply him with a handgun and point him towards his ex-business partner.

“It was a replica,” insists Marinello today. “It was just a scare tactic. All I wanted was to get my money back.”

A few days later police came knocking and today Marinello knows he was lucky to escape it all with a stern warning.

Marinello’s football career is overshadowed by bankruptcy, that handgun incident and a reputation for booze and business failures.

“I’m a devil may care person,” he shrugs. “I was young and stupid and I had too much money and time on my hands. But there were some bloody great times too.

“Would I change it?” he grins, “not a bit of it.”

• Part of the Footballers Behaving Badly interview series published by the Evening News in 2009

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "SANDRA DICK"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4430156.1493212952!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4430156.1493212952!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Peter Marinello in his Motherwell strip in the late 1970s. Picture: SNS Group","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Peter Marinello in his Motherwell strip in the late 1970s. Picture: SNS Group","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4430156.1493212952!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4430157.1493212954!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4430157.1493212954!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Peter Marinello in action for Hibs during the 1968-69 season. Picture: SNS Group","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Peter Marinello in action for Hibs during the 1968-69 season. Picture: SNS Group","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4430157.1493212954!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/our-region/edinburgh/on-this-day-in-1902-hibs-win-scottish-cup-1-4430048","id":"1.4430048","articleHeadline": "On this day in 1902: Hibs win Scottish Cup","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1493208151000 ,"articleLead": "

April 26 is a day that is forever etched in the history of Hibernian with the club securing their second Scottish Cup in 1902.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4430045.1493208144!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The cup winning Hibs side in 1902."} ,"articleBody": "

On the pitch, the 1902 Scottish Cup final between Hibs and Celtic offered little to get excited about with the Edinburgh dispact reporting the quality of the final as “charity club season final” however while the game itself was muted, the celebrations back inm Edinburgh were spectacular. Hibs had made the final despite a disappointing league campaign that offered little to suggest they would become a deadly force in the Scottish Cup finishing sixth in the ten-team First Division.

The Easter Road side had won just three away win.

However, in 1902 Hibs Cup form was a different matter. Their performances were littered with goals having scored 16 and lost just two, booking their place with a 2-0 triumph over Rangers

The scene was set for a thrilling chance for an Edinburgh side to scoop the honours for a second year in a row.

A gale force wind marked the spectacle which had been delayed due to the tragic Ibrox disaster.

Celebrations in Edinburgh post match lasted long in to the night, however, Hibs fans would need to wait 114 years before lifting the famous trophy again.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "STEPHEN MCILKENNY"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4430045.1493208144!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4430045.1493208144!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The cup winning Hibs side in 1902.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The cup winning Hibs side in 1902.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4430045.1493208144!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4430046.1493208145!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4430046.1493208145!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "How the Cup Final victory was reported.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "How the Cup Final victory was reported.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4430046.1493208145!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4430047.1493208147!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4430047.1493208147!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "editorial image","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "editorial image","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4430047.1493208147!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/hibs-boss-neil-lennon-handed-two-game-ban-for-touchline-spat-1-4429599","id":"1.4429599","articleHeadline": "Hibs boss Neil Lennon handed two-game ban for touchline spat","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1493188278000 ,"articleLead": "

Hibernian head coach Neil Lennon has received an immediate two-match touchline ban following his bust-up with Morton boss Jim Duffy.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4429598.1493188261!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Neil Lennon was given a four-game ban in total - two of which are suspended. Picture: Scott Louden"} ,"articleBody": "

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Lennon also received a further two-game punishment suspended until the end of 2017, which will only be triggered if he is found guilty of another misconduct charge.

The announcement came just before midnight on Tuesday following a Scottish Football Association disciplinary hearing.

The panel decided Lennon had adopted an aggressive attitude towards Duffy and the match officials towards the end of the goalless draw at Easter Road last month, when Morton’s Kudus Oyenuga fouled Jordon Forster before going down theatrically when confronted by Darren McGregor.

Lennon will sit in the stand in games against Raith Rovers and Ayr but will be free to take part in the presentation of the Ladbrokes Championship trophy after Hibs’ final match of the season against St Mirren.

Hibs were also fined £750 for the melee that followed the incident, with a further £250 suspended.

Duffy had received an immediate two-match ban in a separate hearing last week, when Morton were fined £500.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANGUS WRIGHT"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4429598.1493188261!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4429598.1493188261!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Neil Lennon was given a four-game ban in total - two of which are suspended. Picture: Scott Louden","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Neil Lennon was given a four-game ban in total - two of which are suspended. Picture: Scott Louden","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4429598.1493188261!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/hibs-boss-to-give-top-stars-the-night-off-against-raith-1-4429279","id":"1.4429279","articleHeadline": "Hibs boss to give top stars the night off against Raith","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1493155833000 ,"articleLead": "

Neil Lennon is set to field a much-changed Hibs team against Raith Rovers this evening as he gives several of his Championship-winning mainstays some time off.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4429278.1493139206!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Neil Lennon will give some development players a chance tonight"} ,"articleBody": "

With the league title tied up a week past Saturday and their Scottish Cup bid ended by Aberdeen at the weekend, the Easter Road side have nothing tangible to play for in their last three games of the season.

Lennon plans to utilise tonight’s match at home to relegation-threatened Rovers for experimental purposes, with the squad consisting predominantly of fringe men and development players such as Scott Martin, Innes Murray, Fraser Murray and Kevin Waugh. Centre-back Paul Hanlon could be listed among the substitutes after injury but the 27-year-old is unlikely to feature.

“I’ve given the majority of them off till Thursday. I want to use the squad. I need to look at some players for next season and I want to give the younger lads an opportunity. The main players have had a great season in all. A few days away will do them good, mentally and physically. I want to see what I’ve got for next season. I think that’s important. It will still be a strong team, with maybe an unfamiliar look to it.

“The development boys deserve an opportunity to get that experience now. I’ve got high hopes for some of them. They’ve had a really good season and I’ve enjoyed watching them play so a couple of them will figure. Kevin Waugh will be in the squad, Fraser Murray, Scott Martin, Innes Murray. I would like [Oli] Shaw and [Ryan] Porteous and people like that in as well but because of their loans they can’t figure. I’ve got high hopes for them as well next season, which is all good.”

Meanwhile, Lennon is hopeful that the majority of Hibs’ out-of-contract players will pledge their futures to the club for their return to the Premiership next season.

“They can talk to other clubs – that’s their prerogative, but we’ve made them offers,” said Lennon. “The majority of them are on decent money as it is. Some offers have been improved. I’m not losing any sleep over it. I think the majority of them will sign on. I’d be very surprised if they do go. I don’t think there’s many clubs out there who can offer them what we can. There’s a familiarity there. They’ve had a couple of great seasons and I think we can get better. It’s up to the players. I’ve pitched my case across to them. They’ll have their own personal issues, and maybe footballing reasons, but they would have to be really good footballing reasons to leave here now.”

One player who hasn’t been offered a contract is 36-year-old striker Grant Holt. “He is an isolated case,” said Lennon. “He has other things to think about as well in terms of his next step and in terms of his coaching development as well. I’d like him around but it might not be down to me.”

Lennon is eager to keep Ofir Marciano if a deal can be struck with his parent club over the summer. The highly-regarded goalkeeper has another year on his contract with FC Ashdod. “We’d like him to stay,” said Lennon. “Predominantly we will have a conversation with Dudu [Dahan, his agent]. I am sure finances will play a part. I am not sure what Ashdod will want to do. We have not touched on it. I have spoken to Ofir on Sunday and he is really happy here, which is great news for us. Whether we can strike a deal, I hope we can because I have got the goalkeeper in place that I want and they are hard to find.”

Lennon explained that he has had a chat with Fraser Fyvie, who was visibly annoyed at being substituted after 33 minutes on Saturday. “I saw him on Sunday [at the player of the year dinner] and I just asked him if he was okay,” said the manager. “He said he was fine. Look, he has every right to react the way he did, or feel the way he did. I would have been exactly the same. Gordon [Strachan] took me off in a cup final, and I wasn’t exactly delighted about it. But you understand. As a manager, I had to make a decision. It turned out to be the right decision. It wasn’t down to Fraser. The fact he was on a booking pre-empted that as well. I had to make a change.”

Lennon stood by his claim in the aftermath of the weekend defeat that Hibs are the second-best team in Scotland. “That’s my opinion,” he said. “You don’t have to agree with it. The facts are that Aberdeen are. But, from what I see, and what I saw on Saturday, if we had been in the Premiership this year, we would have been challenging for second place. We get the crowds, we have a good infrastructure. I think Rangers will be stronger next season. Whether they’ve got the resources to get Pedro [Caixinha] what he wants for next season, you’d like to think that year on year they will get stronger. To be fair to Derek [McInnes], he has done a fantastic job, probably everything that they could have asked of him, but I look at the game in isolation, and it doesn’t faze me at all. We played better football.”

Lennon is excited about the potential of his team in the Premiership. After landing Danny Swanson on a pre-contract, he intends to bolster other areas of the squad. “I need some quality adding to it,” he said. “But don’t forget I’ve got assets in the team as well that not many teams in Scotland have. We had round about a £2m bid for [Jason] Cummings last summer. Not many other clubs outwith Celtic and Rangers can attract that kind of money for players. And [John] McGinn obviously. There will be suitors out there for him as well. Again we would be looking for serious money if that was the case. I’m not saying we want to sell him. I’m saying this is what I have that makes me confident we can make a good fist of things next year.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4429278.1493139206!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4429278.1493139206!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Neil Lennon will give some development players a chance tonight","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Neil Lennon will give some development players a chance tonight","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4429278.1493139206!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/chris-humphrey-i-ve-no-problem-with-lenny-s-tirades-1-4429281","id":"1.4429281","articleHeadline": "Chris Humphrey: I’ve no problem with Lenny’s tirades","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1493184657000 ,"articleLead": "

Chris Humphrey has no problem with Neil Lennon ripping into the Hibs players when he sees fit because he knows from personal experience that the manager is just as likely to display his compassionate side behind closed doors.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4429280.1493139575!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Chris Humphrey hopes to use Hibs last three matches of the season to earn a new deal, starting with tonights clash with Raith Rovers at Easter Road. Pic: SNS"} ,"articleBody": "

The Northern Irishman hasn’t been slow to criticise his team this season when he feels they haven’t performed to high enough standards. In a notable post-match tirade after a draw at Raith Rovers in February, Lennon branded his players “a disgrace”, while he was similarly scathing after the 3-2 Scottish Cup defeat by Aberdeen on Saturday even though Hibs were widely deemed to have been the better team against the Scottish Premiership’s second-placed side. Humphrey, who was an unused substitute at Hampden after returning from a two-month lay-off caused by a combination of injury and personal problems, insists there’s far more to his manager, however, than the feisty character often seen on a match-day.

Asked if he was surprised that Lennon slaughtered the team at the weekend, the winger said: “Not really because we all know what the gaffer can be like. He can be like that but then when he’s calmed down, he speaks to you and explains why he was like that. Listen, he’s a winner. Yeah, OK, he can go mad sometimes, but at the end of the day he loves his players and he’s always there for us. He’ll do anything for his players.

“I found that out when I went through my off-field problems. I was going through a difficult time and had a bit of time off, and the gaffer was brilliant. He was there every step of the way for me and showed another side of him that people might not see. He rang me up and gave me a lot of support. He told me to come back whenever I was ready. I can’t thank him enough for that. You don’t really see that side of him when he’s on the pitch. Personally, I’ve seen both sides of him and I can understand where he comes from when goes mad or whatever. He just wants us to win, so if we don’t win, he’s not happy.

“Sometimes he might pull whoever he wasn’t happy with aside and say ‘look, I went like that because I feel you’re a good player’ or whatever it might have been. I think the lads understand why he gets like that. It’s just the way he is. He’s not going to change. People might just see what he’s like on the sidelines and say ‘oh, look at him’ or whatever, but when you get to work with him day in, day out, you get to understand his personality and what he’s really all about.”

Humphrey was relieved to return to the squad after a frustrating period. The former Motherwell winger signed at the start of January on a short-term contract until the end of the season but managed only six appearances before succumbing to a foot injury that forced him off at the start of the Scottish Cup win over Hearts in February. The 29-year-old Jamaican knows he needs to try and impress in Hibs’ final three matches of the season – against Raith Rovers tonight, Ayr United on Saturday and St Mirren the following week – if he is to earn himself a new deal.

“I felt my Achilles before the Hearts game, so when I came off against Hearts I thought it was that but it wasn’t – it was my fascia,” said Humphrey. “I also had a couple of weeks off with family problems as well, so I missed a lot of rehab with that, which made it longer as well. But the gaffer was brilliant and I’d just like to thank him for that.

“It has been very frustrating, but hopefully I can play a part in the last three games and see where that takes me. I haven’t heard anything about a contract, and I didn’t expect to. I’ve been injured for a long time, so I wouldn’t expect to hear anything from the club yet. I need to play and prove to them that I’m fit and it’s not going to happen again.”

“These games are important for me to try to get some games under my belt, and for my own piece of mind to prove to myself that it’s fine.”

Humphrey was part of a Motherwell side that finished in the top three of the Premiership in both 2012 and 2013. He sees no reason why Hibs can’t do likewise and live up to Lennon’s bold billing as the second best team in Scotland next season.

“We proved on Saturday that we can mix with the best of them,” said Humphrey. “Aberdeen are second in the Premiership, but apart from the first 20-odd minutes, I thought we did very well against them.

“This club should be very excited about next season because I think it’ll be a good one for them. Keep this bunch together, and the gaffer obviously, and I can see them doing very well. The gaffer’s got experience of winning that league, and I’ve always said I think this is a Premiership squad. I see Hibs doing very well.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANTHONY BROWN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4429280.1493139575!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4429280.1493139575!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Chris Humphrey hopes to use Hibs last three matches of the season to earn a new deal, starting with tonights clash with Raith Rovers at Easter Road. Pic: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Chris Humphrey hopes to use Hibs last three matches of the season to earn a new deal, starting with tonights clash with Raith Rovers at Easter Road. Pic: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4429280.1493139575!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/oli-shaw-continues-prolific-hibs-under-20s-form-with-treble-1-4429427","id":"1.4429427","articleHeadline": "Oli Shaw continues prolific Hibs Under-20s form with treble","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1493148166000 ,"articleLead": "

Oli Shaw continued his sensational scoring run for Hibs Under-20s as he bagged a hat-trick in the 4-0 SPFL Development League win over Partick Thistle at Oriam.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4429426.1493148162!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Oli Shaw"} ,"articleBody": "

Shaw has been prolific for the Hibs youngsters this season and surely would have been in contention for a start in the senior team’s match against Raith Rovers had he not been on loan at Stenhousemuir this season. Even still, Lennon has high hopes for the 19-year-old and is expected to be part of the squad that makes the step up to the Ladbrokes Premiership next season.

Even though the Hibees’ Development League title hopes ended at Ross County last week, Grant Murray’s men were motivated and pressured the Jags right from the off. Their persistence paid off on 18 minutes when Sean Mackie’s cross found its way to Callum Donaldson, who made no mistake with a close-range header.

Shaw then made it 2-0 on 35 minutes when he converted Kevin Waugh’s cross and the Scotland Under-19 international added his second from the penalty spot before completing his hat-trick with just seconds remaining.

Hibs Under-20s: Dabrowski, Donaldson, Mackie (Shanley 88), Porteous, Waugh, O’Connor, Watson, Stirling, Shaw, I Murray (Smith 88), Gullan. Unused subs: Paton,, P Martin.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4429426.1493148162!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4429426.1493148162!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Oli Shaw","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Oli Shaw","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4429426.1493148162!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/danny-swanson-why-i-m-swapping-st-johnstone-for-hibs-1-4428763","id":"1.4428763","articleHeadline": "Danny Swanson: Why I’m swapping St Johnstone for Hibs","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1493118774000 ,"articleLead": "

Danny Swanson has admitted it was a tough decision to leave St Johnstone but the chance to join Hibs was too good to turn down.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4428762.1493118864!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "St Johnstone's Danny Swanson is joining Hibs next season. Picture: Roddy Scott/SNS"} ,"articleBody": "

Swanson, 30, has agreed a pre-contract deal to join the Easter Road club in the summer.

He is a lifelong Hibs supporter and says it was his ambition to play for the club.

The attacking midfielder had a short spell at Hearts last season but has flourished at St Johnstone and is the club’s top scorer for the current campaign with 13 goals.

Swanson said: “The opportunity to sign for Hibernian was one I couldn’t resist. I’m an Edinburgh boy and grew up supporting the Hibees. It’s always been an ambition of mine to play for the club and I am looking forward to this new challenge and to help achieve their goals back in the SPFL Premiership.

“The decision to leave St Johnstone has been a difficult one for me. I’ve felt settled at the Saints and really enjoyed my football, and my period at the club has been the most enjoyable and satisfying time of my career. So, it goes without saying, my decision to leave McDiarmid Park was not taken lightly. However, the pull of Hibernian was too much for me.”

Swanson began his career with Berwick Rangers before earning a move to Dundee United who he helped win the Scottish Cup in 2010. He had spells in England with Peterborough and Coventry City, before coming back to Scotland to join St Johnstone on loan. He then moved to Hearts before returning to Perth.

He has helped Saints secure a top six finish for this campaign and the club remain in the box seat to secure European qualification for next season.

However, the season has not been without its dramas and Swanson was involved in an on-field fight with team-mate Richard Foster during the recent defeat by Hamilton Accies.

The pair were both sent off and later fined by the club.

Swanson added: “I would like to thank my team-mates, the staff and the supporters at St Johnstone for making me feel very welcome. It’s a fine football club with good values.

“I also want to thank the manager, Tommy Wright, who has supported me in so many ways, on and off the field. His trust in me on the football park allowed me to flourish. The way he treated me like an adult off the park also helped me to mature and develop as a person.

“Now that we are in the top six yet again, which is yet another fine achievement, for the next five games, it’s my focus to make sure I play my part in helping St Johnstone qualify for a European place. Everyone at the club has worked extremely hard so far this season and it would be a fitting reward at the end of this campaign.

“Beyond that, I look forward to starting my new career with Hibernian in the summer.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4428762.1493118864!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4428762.1493118864!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "St Johnstone's Danny Swanson is joining Hibs next season. Picture: Roddy Scott/SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "St Johnstone's Danny Swanson is joining Hibs next season. Picture: Roddy Scott/SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4428762.1493118864!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/grant-holt-hopes-strong-finish-to-season-earns-him-hibs-deal-1-4428195","id":"1.4428195","articleHeadline": "Grant Holt hopes strong finish to season earns him Hibs deal","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1493098254000 ,"articleLead": "

Grant Holt is hopeful that his form in the second half of the campaign proves enough to earn him a contract extension at Hibs.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4428194.1493052369!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Striker Grant Holt is happy at Hibs"} ,"articleBody": "

The 36-year-old striker is one of several members of Neil Lennon’s squad whose deals expire at the end of the season, but he is keen to remain with the club for their return to the Premiership next season.

Following a slow start to his Hibs career as he worked his way back to fitness and sharpness following two injury-disrupted years down south, Holt feels he has shown his value to Neil Lennon’s Championship-winning team in recent months.

The former Norwich City and Wigan Athletic player hopes this manifests itself in the form of a new deal. “The manager said to us four or five weeks ago there would be a contract but I’ve not heard anything from the club yet,” Holt told the Evening News. “I’ll just need to wait and see what happens in the next few weeks. I enjoy it here – it’s a great club. I’ve told the club what my thoughts are, so the ball’s in their court. It’s up to them.”

Holt, who has scored five goals in 36 appearances this season, acknowledges that he took some time to get up to speed after arriving at the club last summer, but the veteran has been pleased with his form since the turn of the year. His performances in both Scottish Cup games against Hearts and in Saturday’s semi-final defeat by Aberdeen have been 
particularly notable.

“I needed football because I hadn’t played much over the previous two seasons, so in the first couple of months, I wasn’t anywhere near the level I wanted to be at,” he said. “I could totally understand why the fans were aggrieved. But after December I think everybody started to realise what I could do and what I bring to the team. They probably didn’t see that in the first four months or so.”

Meanwhile, Hibs’ development team face Partick Thistle at Oriam at 2pm today.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANTHONY BROWN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4428194.1493052369!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4428194.1493052369!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Striker Grant Holt is happy at Hibs","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Striker Grant Holt is happy at Hibs","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4428194.1493052369!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/grant-holt-i-ve-won-over-my-critics-1-4428230","id":"1.4428230","articleHeadline": "Grant Holt: I’ve won over my critics","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1493098254000 ,"articleLead": "

Grant Holt knows his presence in the Hibs team hasn’t always been unanimously appreciated by supporters, but the veteran striker believes that, over the course of the season, he has vindicated Neil Lennon’s decision to sign him last summer.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4428229.1493055799!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Grant Holt celebrates after his first-half header brought Hibs back into the semi-final, main picture"} ,"articleBody": "

Despite celebrating his 36th birthday earlier this month, the former Norwich City and Wigan Athletic forward has been a regular for the Championship-winning team this season, starting 27 competitive matches and featuring 36 times in total.

As a man with more than 150 career goals under his belt, Holt is disappointed by his tally of five this season. However, he feels that, after taking some time to build up his fitness and sharpness in the opening months of the campaign, he has proven to be an effective foil for top scorer Jason Cummings.

“I know I’ve not scored enough goals this year – that’s been well documented – but I think everything else I’ve been doing has been great,” he told the Evening News. “The last four or five months, I feel I’ve got fitter and got better. It was difficult when I first came in because I hadn’t played much in the previous two years, so I was still working to get my sharpness back. But I’m happy with what I’ve done this year.

“I’m still enjoying it, I play with a smile on my face, and I think the fans can see what they get from me – I work hard, I want to win and I don’t stop. I think they appreciate that. That’s why we’ve got a goal machine [Cummings] who stands up front and does what he does. That’s why he’s got no knocks and no scratches on him this year! Yes, I’ve not scored the goals I would have liked, but if you look at my all-round game since about December time, I think people will be pretty happy with that. That’s me turned 36, so I don’t think I’m doing too bad for myself.”

Holt is out of contract at the end of the season, but is keen to stay on for next term as Hibs return to the Premiership following a three-year absence. He has enjoyed being at Easter Road at a time when the bond between the team and the support is as strong as it has been for some time, as evidenced by the rapturous ovation the players received at Hampden after the agonising 3-2 defeat by Aberdeen in Saturday’s Scottish Cup semi-final.

“I’ve enjoyed it here,” said Holt. “It’s a great club. To get 15,000 fans week in, week out in the Championship and 3000 heading up to Dundee United on a Friday night, that just shows how big a club this is. To have 20,000 fans still there singing and cheering for you after you’ve just lost a semi-final says a lot about what type of supporters they are and also how highly they think of us.”

Holt believes Hibs are entitled to be excited about next season. Life in the second tier hasn’t always been plain sailing, with several points spilled against less illustrious sides, but the striker is adamant his team, who have fared well against top-flight opposition in knockout tournaments, will be better suited to the Premiership.

“People don’t realise how hard the Championship is,” he said. “There’s a reason Rangers were in it for two years and a reason we’ve been in it for three years – it’s a tough league. You go to tough places every other week, and then at Easter Road you have teams coming and sitting in, trying to counter-attack you. It’s not easy. This team, this squad and this club will be far better off up in the Premiership.

“We’ve played 40-odd games this season, with no international breaks, no winter breaks or anything likes and we’ve just taken the second-best team in Scotland to the wire. That shows where we are as a football club, so roll on next year.”

Much of Holt’s bullishness stems from the fact that, over the last three months alone, Hibs have defeated a Hearts side who will finish in the top six and then gone close to doing likewise against a Dons side who look nailed on to finish second despite gifting them a two-goal start following uncharacteristic lapses by Darren McGregor and Ofir Marciano.

“Make no mistake, we wanted to get to the final and win it, so we’re disappointed,” said Holt. “We started sloppy, gave two goals away, changed the formation, got back into the game and were in the ascendancy. We were getting at them and if Jason did a bit better with his chance we could have been 3-2 up.

“I really fancied us at that stage. It was very disappointing to lose from a deflection because Aberdeen didn’t have much in terms of chances in the second half. We had a good run at it and had a good go, but if there are any positives to take from it, it’s that not many teams will come back from 2-0 down against Aberdeen, especially the way they’ve been playing, and really put them to the sword. We made them change formation a couple of times. They went five at the back at one point, which is a measure of how we were playing at the time.”

Although there was solace to be taken from the way Hibs fought back, Lennon was unable to view the match in a positive light. The manager was forced to take midfielder Fraser Fyvie after just 33 minutes in order to change formation as he sought to address a shambolic start from Hibs. Despite their rousing recovery, Lennon was in a downbeat mood afterwards as he delivered a scathing assessment of his team’s performance and inability to seize victory once they got back to 2-2.

“The gaffer was hurting because we didn’t win and he feels we should have won,” said Holt. “He wanted to be in a final, as we all did. We worked hard and lost in a way where people were able to take positives from it, but at the end of the day we got beat. The gaffer doesn’t want that – none of us want that. He’s a winner and he makes difficult decisions, he doesn’t shirk them. Other managers might have waited until half-time on Saturday but he stuck his neck on the line after 30-odd minutes, to the detriment of Fraser, which is nothing to do with what he had done. We just needed a change of formation.”

Hibs return to action tomorrow night as they face Raith Rovers in their penultimate home game. Holt is hoping his team can turn on the style in their last three matches of the campaign to ensure they sign off for the summer on a high.

“We won’t rest on our laurels,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll mix the team up and bit give some players game time but we want to finish with a bang. We’ll have big crowds at Easter Road for our home games against Raith and against St Mirren when we get the trophy, so we want to end with a swagger and get as many points as we can and show everyone why we are the best team in the division and why we’ve won the league.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANTHONY BROWN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4428229.1493055799!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4428229.1493055799!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Grant Holt celebrates after his first-half header brought Hibs back into the semi-final, main picture","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Grant Holt celebrates after his first-half header brought Hibs back into the semi-final, main picture","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4428229.1493055799!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/neil-lennon-hibs-are-second-best-team-in-scotland-1-4428323","id":"1.4428323","articleHeadline": "Neil Lennon: Hibs are second-best team in Scotland","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1493098200000 ,"articleLead": "

Neil Lennon has boldly claimed Hibs are “the second best team in the country”, despite losing out to Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup semi-final at the weekend.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4428322.1493111339!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Neil Lennon. Pic: Ian Georgeson"} ,"articleBody": "

The Dons currently sit in the runners-up spot in the Premiership and are widely regarded as second only to Celtic in Scottish football.

But Lennon reckons his team can lay claim to being better than the Pittodrie outfit.

Hibs battled back from the concession of a goal to Adam Rooney after just 12 seconds and a second to Ryan Christie’s audacious free-kick 24 minutes later to restore parity after an hour at Hampden.

But they were denied the chance to defend the trophy they won in historic fashion last year when Jonny Hayes’ shot deflected fortuitously off Darren McGregor with just five minutes remaining.

The exciting encounter gave the Easter Road side a glimpse into the competition they will face in the top flight next season after winning the Championship this term.

And, despite labelling his side ‘pathetic’ and accusing them of ‘hiding’ during a calamitous opening half an hour, and ultimately crashing to defeat, Lennon is adamant Hibs are worthy of being considered superior to their weekend opponents.

Asked about going toe-to-toe with the nation’s “second best team”, Lennon told Hibs TV: “We’re the second best team in the country.

“We can mix it, we can play, we showed plenty of character to come back from 2-0 down.

“We were definitely in the ascendancy, we scored the best goals, but we conceded and they let the game get away from them.”

Meanwhile, Lennon will be back at Hampden this afternoon to discover his punishment for his part in the ugly melee with Morton counterpart Jim Duffy last month.

The Hibs boss reacted angrily when Duffy stormed into his technical area after Lennon had remonstrated with striker Kudus Oyenuga in the wake of his red-card challenge on Jordon Forster and a head-to-head clash with Darren McGregor.

Due to the ‘non-availability of Hibs’ solicitor’, the Northern Irishman had his case delayed until today after expressing frustration he could be banned from the touchline for Saturday’s semi-final against Aberdeen.

Instead, the former Celtic manager, who faces three charges of breaching disciplinary rule 203 by “adopting an aggressive attitude” to Oyenuga, Duffy and the match officials, is in danger of missing Hibs’ title party against St Mirren a week on Saturday.

Duffy was handed a three-match ban, one of which is suspended, for his part in the fracas.

Should Lennon be dealt with similarly he will be in the stand for tomorrow’s meeting with Raith Rovers and on Saturday against Ayr United but free to celebrate with his team on the last day of the campaign.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "IAIN COLLIN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4428322.1493111339!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4428322.1493111339!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Neil Lennon. Pic: Ian Georgeson","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Neil Lennon. Pic: Ian Georgeson","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4428322.1493111339!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/analysis-why-keeping-ofir-marciano-is-vital-for-hibs-next-season-1-4427757","id":"1.4427757","articleHeadline": "Analysis: Why keeping Ofir Marciano is vital for Hibs next season","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1493030821000 ,"articleLead": "

On a weekend when good news for Hibs was reasonably thin on the ground after their Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Aberdeen, it must have been heartening for the Easter Road faithful to hear goalkeeper Ofir Marciano say in the post-match debriefing that he wants to stay at the club beyond this season.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4427754.1493031976!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ofir Marciano has admitted that he's keen to stay at Hibs. Pic: SNS"} ,"articleBody": "

Signed on loan from FC Ashdod until the end of the current campaign, Marciano has been one of Hibs’ unsung heroes as they claimed the Ladbrokes Championship title and reached the last four of the Scottish Cup. Every league-winning team needs a dependable goalkeeper and the Israeli international has been just that.

The 27-year-old has kept 12 shut-outs in 27 appearances and has only shipped more than one goal on five occasions, three of those in the league. Of the 15 goals he’s lost on league duty, five have been penalties. Those are pretty good stats for any custodian, even more so a Hibs one. The previous two seasons the Hibees have spent in the Championship were plagued by too many goals being conceded. They have the meanest defence in the year this season and Marciano was the only tangible change to the defence that ended the previous campaign.

On the occasions he’s been sidelined by visa issues, injury or international duty, his deputy Ross Laidlaw has stepped in admirably too (five clean sheets in 15 matches) and there’s a case for Hibs keeping him as Marciano’s No.2 as well, but as Neil Lennon’s men move up into the top flight, they would be well advised to pull out the stops and keep the Israeli for an assault on the Premiership.

At 27 years old, Marciano is approaching the peak years of his goalkeeping career. He’s agile, has good hands and more often than not gets his positioning right, with perhaps the exception of Aberdeen’s second goal on Saturday. The defence is noticeably calmer when he’s behind them, he organises them well and his distribution is decent. What’s more, he’s now become Israel’s No.1 keeper and although he had a rough night when Spain beat them 4-1 in Valencia last month, he’s highly regarded in his homeland and will more likely hold on to the gloves than not.

Marciano has put in some key performances this season when it has mattered most. His performance against Hearts in the Scottish Cup at Tynecastle was impressive on a day when Hibs rarely looked like scoring, making important saves from Esmael Goncalves and Bjorn Johnsen. Another vital display was against Dunfermline a couple of weeks later in a 2-2 draw when he made three magnificent saves in the second half when the Pars threatened to give Hibs a beating. He made one of the best saves of the season down at Ayr in November when he managed to contort his body and claw away a close-range header at a key moment in the match. He’s not called upon that often but has that classy side to a keeper that you don’t often see at this level.

In short, Hibs have not had a No.1 of this pedigree since Swedish international Daniel Andersson back in 2004. Many have come and gone over the years. Conrad Logan departed a Hibs hero last year for exploits in the Scottish Cup, but he hardly covered himself in glory in the play-offs last season when at fault against both Raith and Falkirk and probably was not the long-term answer. Mark Oxley never really excelled despite two years at the club and had a poor shot-to-save ratio, 2007 League Cup winner Andy McNeil was error-prone, perhaps not to the same extent as Yves Ma-Kalambay, Zibi Malkowski and Simon Brown, but you get the drift here. Hibs haven’t nailed the goalkeeping role for a while. Ben Williams was perhaps the best between Andersson and Marciano but even then, Hibs got relegated with him in between the sticks.

Hibs will come under more pressure next season at the back. That much is obvious. Their back-four has top-flight experience with the exception of captain David Gray and it’s reasonable to assume that the centre-back pairing of Darren McGregor and Paul Hanlon will remain. Efe Ambrose won’t be staying and Lennon has other areas of the pitch that require greater tinkering. The back four can and have coped with Premiership opposition, but it’s safe to assume more will get by them. It’s critical they have a good goalkeeper to pick up the slack.

Stable, dependable stoppers tend not to grow on trees and it’s no coincidence that Aberdeen have reached two cup finals and handsomely lead Rangers and Hearts in the race for second place since they signed Joe Lewis as their main man at the start of the season. Undone my misdemeanours of keepers such as Scott Brown and Jamie Langfield in the past, having a top keeper in the Premiership has paid off for the Dons. Hearts and St Johnstone haven’t been altogether steady with the talented but inexperienced Jack Hamilton and Zander Clark respectively and Marciano is better than anything else in the Premiership other than Lewis, Wes Foderingham and Craig Gordon. Hibs will have to look outside the box if they want to better what they have right now.

Marciano is settled in Edinburgh with his wife Shelly and is keen to stay. His career has flourished again after a loan move to Belgian club Mouscron turned sour. He knows that playing in Scotland’s top division, where fellow countryman Beram Kayal and Nir Bitton have excelled in recent years, will keep in the international fold. Moreover, if he plays well for Hibs while contracted to them, there’s no doubt he will catch the eye of others. Investing in Marciano may well bring dividend financially in the long run.

Hibs’ history with goalkeepers is chequered and if they can strike a deal with Ashdod and the player’s agent, they can make one of their most important signings ahead of their return to Scotland’s elite. In previous seasons Hibs have gone into campaigns with Graham Stack, Mark Brown, Williams, Oxley, Ma-Kalambay, McNeil, Brown and Malkowski as their goalkeepers. Marciano would be an marked upgrade on all of them and with Lennon setting high standards at the club next term, he would tick the box in an underrated yet vital position.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "MARK ATKINSON"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4427754.1493031976!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4427754.1493031976!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Ofir Marciano has admitted that he's keen to stay at Hibs. Pic: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ofir Marciano has admitted that he's keen to stay at Hibs. Pic: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4427754.1493031976!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4427755.1493031978!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4427755.1493031978!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Marciano makes an important save from Bjorn Johnsen against Hearts. Pic: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Marciano makes an important save from Bjorn Johnsen against Hearts. Pic: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4427755.1493031978!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4427756.1493031979!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4427756.1493031979!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Marciano makes one of three high-class saves against Dunfermline. Pic: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Marciano makes one of three high-class saves against Dunfermline. Pic: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4427756.1493031979!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/darren-mcgregor-lands-hibs-player-of-the-year-award-1-4427645","id":"1.4427645","articleHeadline": "Darren McGregor lands Hibs’ player of the year award","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1493025197000 ,"articleLead": "

Defender Darren McGregor has been named Hibs’ player of the year at the club’s annual award ceremony.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4427644.1493025196!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Darren McGregor has been in excellent form for Hibs this season"} ,"articleBody": "

The centre-half, whose performances this season helped Hibs win the Ladbrokes Premiership and spark clamour for a Scotland call-up, received his prize last night at a ceremony at Dynamic Earth.

Left-back Lewis Stevenson won the players’ player of the year, while top goalscorer Jason Cummings landed the young player of the year award. James Keatings claimed goal of the season for his last-minute strike in the 2-1 win over Falkirk last month.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "MARK ATKINSON"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4427644.1493025196!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4427644.1493025196!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Darren McGregor has been in excellent form for Hibs this season","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Darren McGregor has been in excellent form for Hibs this season","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4427644.1493025196!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/michael-weir-at-least-hibs-went-down-fighting-in-cup-defence-1-4427355","id":"1.4427355","articleHeadline": "Michael Weir: At least Hibs went down fighting in cup defence","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1493011849000 ,"articleLead": "

Hibs have had a great run in the Scottish Cup over the past two seasons and although it would have been nice to get back to the final, the main thing was we went down fighting in our defence of the trophy.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4427354.1492971539!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Neil Lennon was scathing about his team's display but he's simply a winner"} ,"articleBody": "

Having putting so much into the match, it was agonising to lose to a deflected goal, but we can certainly take plenty positives from the way we responded to a terrible start against a good side.

Not many sides will come back from 2-0 against Aberdeen, especially in a big game like a cup semi-final. They are one of the best teams we’ll face, so that game will have given us a good insight into what we need to be prepared for next season. The main lesson, of course, is that we can’t afford to gift a Premiership side a two-goal start!

Neil Lennon’s comments about the players were pretty scathing and I think that stemmed from frustration. That’s just the way the manager is – he’s a winner and he wants to win games and win trophies. He was understandably annoyed at the way we started because the game passed the players by in the opening half hour. Ultimately that’s what cost us because we left ourselves with too much to do. We did really well to fight back, but in tight games like that, you usually need a bit of luck to go your way and we didn’t get any on the day.

It was an unfortunate day for Darren McGregor but it sums up the highs and lows of football. The previous weekend he scored a double to clinch us the title and then on Saturday, he was involved in two of the goals we lost. You certainly won’t catch me blaming Darren – he’s got nothing to be ashamed of. He’s been immense for us since he signed and he’ll be a big player for us next season.

Ultimately, the most important thing for us this term was to get promoted. I think most Hibs fans would have taken winning the title and making the semi-final of the Scottish Cup at the start of the season. It’s been a good season for us, and with three games against relegation-threatened teams to come, it would be nice to finish with a flourish and make sure everyone heads into the summer break on a high.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4427354.1492971539!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4427354.1492971539!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Neil Lennon was scathing about his team's display but he's simply a winner","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Neil Lennon was scathing about his team's display but he's simply a winner","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4427354.1492971539!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/regret-for-hibs-but-hampden-show-bodes-well-for-next-season-1-4427285","id":"1.4427285","articleHeadline": "Regret for Hibs but Hampden show bodes well for next season","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1493011845000 ,"articleLead": "

Another exhilarating Scottish Cup match at Hampden that ended 3-2 and involved a late winner, but, unlike 11 months previously, this time there was to be no glory for spirited Hibs.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4427283.1492965678!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The unfortunate Darren McGregor, left, joins in with his team-mates as they thank the fans at Hampden"} ,"articleBody": "

Where there was only unbridled joy after the dramatic victory over Rangers in the final last May, on Saturday Hibs and their supporters left the national stadium following their semi-final defeat by Aberdeen with mixed feelings.

There were regrets and recriminations over a slack start in which they gifted their opponents two goals, encouragement from the manner in which they responded to draw level through substitute Grant Holt and Dylan McGeouch – their two best players on the day – and despondency as the Dons fluked the game’s decisive goal at a time when Hibs looked the likelier winners. Afterwards, there was a show of appreciation from the 20,000-strong green-and-white army, who roared the players off at the end of what was widely deemed a spirited defence of their trophy.

This sense of pride wasn’t shared by their manager, however, as Neil Lennon lacerated his players for their “utterly pathetic” start and then for failing to grasp a clear opportunity to make it to a second successful final once they had got the match back to 2-2. “They get no accolades from me – they might from the punters, but not from me,” he bristled. “They should have won. The opportunity was there.”

While his general point about not being happy in defeat was perfectly legitimate, not to mention encouraging for a Hibs support who want to see their side return to the top flight next season with a winning mentality, the manager’s dig about the majority of his players “looking like the boy band they’ve been over the last three or four years” was unnecessary and not reflective of a group who have generally been prominent in restoring the club’s credibility during this period.

In light of the fact Lennon had described the clash with the second-best team in the country as “an acid test” of his team’s readiness for next season, the fact Hibs, who defeated Aberdeen in the League Cup last season, again got themselves into a position where they “should have won” bodes well for their Premiership prospects.

For all that they were out of sorts in the opening half hour, there is no escaping the fact that the concession of a goal after just 12 seconds, following an uncharacteristic lapse from Darren McGregor, had the double-edged effect of jolting Hibs and lifting Aberdeen. After the Easter Road side had got themselves in a fankle straight from their own kick-off, the usually-dependable McGregor was horribly slack with a square pass to defensive sidekick Efe Ambrose, who had been afflicted by illness on the day of the game, and Adam Rooney nipped in to steal possession and despatch a clinical strike beyond Ofir Marciano from the edge of the box. Lennon felt the centre-back should have hoofed the ball up the pitch. McGregor duly held his hands up. “Instead of just clearing it, I’ve maybe been caught cold,” he said. “I’m gutted – I let the boys down.”

Given that Aberdeen had won 16 of their previous 19 matches, this was an obvious setback for Hibs, who subsequently toiled to recover their composure. They fell further behind in the 23rd minute after another cheaply-conceded goal. Fraser Fyvie was booked after giving away a free-kick for a foul on Kenny McLean in Hibs’ left-back area. Ryan Christie, just a few yards from the corner flag, spotted Marciano slightly off his line and curled in a low effort which squirmed in at the goalkeeper’s near post. The at-fault Israeli wasn’t aided by the fact his two-man defensive wall of McGeouch and Martin Boyle split and allowed the delivery to go between them. “Schoolboy stuff,” was Lennon’s verdict. “I saw the ball late and that’s why I reacted late,” said Marciano. “I need to analyse it and make sure I do better in that type of situation in the future.”

There was no immediate response from Hibs. Set up in a 4-5-1 formation, they were struggling to make any impact in the final third. Lennon acted in the 33rd minute by taking off midfielder Fyvie and sending on Grant Holt to partner the previously isolated Jason Cummings. Fyvie was visibly baffled at being removed so early. “He got thrown under the bus by the rest,” said Lennon. “I had to sacrifice somebody. It could have been four or five of them. The rest owe Fraser a huge apology.”

The decision was vindicated as Hibs went on to gain an instant foothold. “The minute Grant came on it changed the whole dimension for us,” said McGeouch.

Holt pulled one back within three minutes of entering the fray as he powered in a close-range header from a Martin Boyle cross. The 36-year-old was then instrumental in Hibs’ equaliser. McGeouch surged from wide on the left, played a one-two with the big striker and the midfielder burst on to the return ball and sent a superb angled finish beyond Joe Lewis from ten yards out. Scenes of bedlam erupted among the Hibs support as Lennon sprinted jubilantly along to the corner flag.

They had their tails up but were dealt a blow when the influential McGeouch suffered yet more fitness woe and had to go off three minutes after his goal. “I just felt my groin a wee bit once I scored and I didn’t want to take any chances of leaving us a man down,” said the goal hero, who received a warm embrace from Lennon.

“The momentum had changed when we got our second goal and I thought we were going to win it,” said Marciano. This feeling was shared by most in the stadium as expectant Hibs fans willed the ball into the net and their Dons counterparts watched on quietly and anxiously. But with five minutes left, Jonny Hayes – kept quiet for most of the match – fired in a shot from 25 yards out that took a huge deflection off McGregor and wrong-footed Marciano before trundling in at the goalkeeper’s right-hand post.

There was almost some more stoppage-time delirium for Hibs when Marciano went up and got his head to a Cummings corner, but Joe Lewis was equal to it. “It would have been special but it wasn’t to be,” said the goalkeeper.

This brave effort to force extra-time was appreciated by the Hibs support, who rose as one when the final whistle sounded to thank their team for a memorable 11-month reign as defending champions and a spirited effort at reaching the final once more. As they prepare to end their three-year Premiership exile, the Easter Road faithful can be heartened by the fact that, even though the widely-held consensus was that they were a match for Scotland’s second-best team, their manager felt their display left plenty room for improvement. Expectations are high under Lennon.

“I agree with the manager about the first half hour because we were a bit panicked at the start,” said Marciano. “We conceded two goals that normally we wouldn’t, but I think we handled the situation great to get back into the game. I truly thought we were going to go on and get a third goal. I’m proud of each player – I think we did our maximum.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANTHONY BROWN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4427283.1492965678!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4427283.1492965678!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The unfortunate Darren McGregor, left, joins in with his team-mates as they thank the fans at Hampden","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The unfortunate Darren McGregor, left, joins in with his team-mates as they thank the fans at Hampden","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4427283.1492965678!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4427284.1492965682!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4427284.1492965682!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Grant Holt heads home the first Hibs goal","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Grant Holt heads home the first Hibs goal","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4427284.1492965682!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/goalkeeper-ofir-marciano-keen-to-stay-at-hibs-1-4427270","id":"1.4427270","articleHeadline": "Goalkeeper Ofir Marciano keen to stay at Hibs","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1493011823000 ,"articleLead": "

Ofir Marciano has revealed he wishes to stay at Hibs for their return to the Premiership next season if a deal can be struck with his parent club FC Ashdod.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4427269.1493032224!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ofir Marciano has settled into life in Edinburgh"} ,"articleBody": "

The goalkeeper has been rejuvenated by his season-long loan move to Easter Road and has reclaimed his place in the Israel national team after a difficult time last term which led him going a full year without any competitive games at club level.

Although at fault for Aberdeen’s second goal as Hibs lost 3-2 in Saturday’s Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden, Marciano has been a consistent and impressive performer for Neil Lennon’s team this season, and most supporters are eager to see him retained.

The 27-year-old, who is contracted to Israeli club Ashdod for another year, insists he currently has no idea whether a deal – either loan or permanent – can be brokered this summer to bring him back to Edinburgh next season, but he confirmed he is keen to stay with the newly-crowned Championship winners.

“I don’t know what is going to happen,” he said. “We haven’t discussed it yet. It will be spoken about between my agent and my club in Israel. We wanted to win the league first and then we’ve had the semi-final to concentrate on over the past week.

“All I can say is I’m really happy here and appreciate what the people around the club do for me, the support and the love I get. When you get so much love at a place, you want to stay, obviously. But I don’t know because I’m on loan – we’ll have to wait and see.”

Marciano and his wife have found contentment in Edinburgh over the past nine months after a loan move to Belgian side Mouscron-Perawelz swiftly turned sour last season. He has enjoyed working under Lennon.

“This club has been good for me this year – the gaffer and everybody else around the club have been good for me,” he said. “I’m happy with the situation here. I’m happy with the gaffer and how he treats me. I get all the support I need from him. He pushes me all the time to be a better player. I like that because this is the way to become a better goalie.”

Marciano is one of several Hibs players whose contracts expire this summer. The club have already agreed a pre-contract with St Johnstone midfielder Danny Swanson, who will join in the summer on a two-year deal.

READ MORE – Analysis: Why Hibs should try to keep Marciano for next season

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANTHONY BROWN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4427269.1493032224!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4427269.1493032224!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Ofir Marciano has settled into life in Edinburgh","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ofir Marciano has settled into life in Edinburgh","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4427269.1493032224!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/crime/hibs-striker-jamie-insall-fails-drugs-test-1-4427161","id":"1.4427161","articleHeadline": "Hibs striker Jamie Insall fails drugs test","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492954326000 ,"articleLead": "

Hibs striker Jamie Insall has failed a drugs test.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4427159.1492955348!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Jamie Insall. Picture: JP resell."} ,"articleBody": "

Insall, who is currently on loan at East Fife, tested positive after a match against Livingston on March 11.

The UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) has reportedly informed the League One outfit, who passed on the news to his parent club.

Insall joined Hibs in summer 2015 and is contracted with the club until 2018.

Should UKAD uphold the findings, Insall could face a lengthy ban.

According to a Sunday newspaper report, the player is contesting the result - claiming he had taken cold medication earlier that day.

Insall, who has not made a competitive first-team appearance at Hibs, has scored 14 times in 50 games for East Fife.

Hibs have declined to comment.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Diane King"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4427159.1492955348!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4427159.1492955348!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Jamie Insall. Picture: JP resell.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Jamie Insall. Picture: JP resell.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4427159.1492955348!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4427160.1492955350!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4427160.1492955350!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Jamie Insall appears in Hibernian V Aberdeen - development squad. Picture: TSPL","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Jamie Insall appears in Hibernian V Aberdeen - development squad. Picture: TSPL","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4427160.1492955350!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/aberdeen-and-hibs-exhibit-a-bright-future-for-scottish-football-1-4426885","id":"1.4426885","articleHeadline": "Aberdeen and Hibs exhibit a bright future for Scottish football","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492883023000 ,"articleLead": "

A thrilling encounter at Hampden was the latest staging post in the growth of Scottish football. Derek McInnes has another chance to cement his legacy, while Hibs persevered tour ends but progress continues at Easter Road, writes Joel Sked.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426882.1492883014!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hibernian goalkeeper Ofir Marciano tries to rescue a draw. Pic: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire."} ,"articleBody": "

On May 27, Aberdeen will return to Hampden for the fourth time this season. Since 1990, when Theo Snelders, Hans Gillhaus and Charlie Nicholas were part of the last Aberdeen side to win the Scottish Cup, the national stadium hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Dons.

There was League Cup success in the mid-90s but in the main it has been heartbreak, from disappointment to embarrassment. In Scotland’s premier cup competition the last time they even reached the final was in 2000. That day Jim Leighton left the field injured after three minutes with Robbie Winters taking over between the sticks against a Rangers side which included Stefan Klos, Claudio Reyna, Andrei Kanchelskis, Giovanni van Bronckhorst et al.

After 17 attempts they are finally back. Just.

Following the topsy-turvy five-goal thriller with Hibernian, Derek McInnes was effusive in his praise of his players. Their attitude and honesty as well as other intangibles such as resilience, confidence, calmness and experience.

Now the Dons want to use all that to expunge their last experience of Hampden. Back in November Aberdeen wilted in the face of Celtic as Brendan Rodgers’ side waltzed to Betfed Cup success.

“After the League Cup final we spoke in the dressing room,” McInnes told Sky Sports. “It wasn’t a good place to be, it was really despondent, we hadn’t turned up, we hadn’t laid a glove on them.

“We didn’t play the game the way we set out to do it. And we spoke about the only time it’ll feel better is if we get back here as quickly as possible in the Scottish Cup final.”

He didn’t come out and state it matter of factly, but there is a sense, listening to McInnes, that they want Celtic. They want to pit their wits against the best the Scottish game has to offer. The Dons manager firmly believes he has the individuals as well as the collective to beat what has been a juggernaut heading for an unbeaten domestic season and treble.

There’ll be many among the Aberdeen support who would like the opportunity to take on Rangers in a national cup final, to avenge the recent Pittodrie defeat. Plus, there is more chance of success.

Yet, the main aim has been accomplished. To get there. To be involved in the denouement of the season, in what is usually a sun-drenched Mount Florida.

Half an hour had barely passed and the Dons had one foot in the final, while the other on its way Thirty minutes of game-time later and Aberdeen’s toes had been stubbed as Hibs pushed back.

Despite second-placed league finishes, while heading for a third. And despite League Cup success in 2014, this Aberdeen side have been accused of dropping their bottle when it matters. Something which their opponents know all about. Or should we say knew all about.

In previous semi-finals Aberdeen had lost out to both Dundee United and St Johnstone, the latter in the Scottish Cup the former in the League Cup. Even the Betfred Cup semi-final against Greenock Morton Aberdeen just about got over the line.

McInnes made reference to the St Johnstone and Dundee United matches in his post-match interview. Hinting that in the past Aberdeen would have went the whole haul having been pegged back from leading by two goals and lost the game.

Even if that looked like being the case they found what was needed to win. Grit to stay in the game, keeping Hibs from creating too many opportunities. And that, often illusive, quality: luck.

Early on, it looked like it would simply be a case of Aberdeen having far too much quality for Hibs. They took the initiative early on, pressing Hibs intently, playing positively. They seemed determined to hammer home their status as the country’s second best team. They could have scored a third after Ryan Christie’s free-kick had added to Adam Rooney’s strike in 11 seconds. If they had they would have been heading north with both a dominant performance and emphatic result.

However, the dynamic changed when Grant Holt was introduced and Hibs bypassed the press, going more direct, not allowing Aberdeen to hunt in packs deep in their half.

The Edinburgh side displayed the qualities which have caused so much difficulty for Premiership teams in the last three years. During their Championship sojourn the Hibees have played 14 games against top tier opposition. In 90 minutes they have only lost twice.

They will be competitive next season. Already, they have a team that is widely recognised as top-six. Smart recruitment to add to a steely spine, sprinkled with craft, will see Hibs pushing Rangers and Aberdeen in the upper echelons of the Premiership table. They’ve already got to work doing just that with the addition of Danny Swanson.

While he accused his players of putting in a pathetic performance, Neil Lennon will also be ruing getting his tactics wrong. But he showed his ability to be proactive – far too many managers are reactive – and make a crucial change to swing the game.

Those 90 minutes on Saturday afternoon should excite the neutral Scottish football fan at the prospect of these two teams facing off at least four times next season. As well as the battles with Heart of Midlothian, Rangers, Celtic, St Johnstone and more. There is going to be a lot of excitement, a lot of bloodied noses, a lot of ups and downs. It is going to be fantastic,.

A fantastic Hibs support paid tribute to their heroes for the journey they’ve been on these last few years. Such is the nature of football fans, many would have booed or slouched off to the pub or home. But the 20,000 plus from the capital recognised what their team, their players, had achieved, giving them something to shout about, bringing them closer to their club.

They can now enjoy the remaining weeks as a Championship club, while looking ahead to a brighter future.

But the immediate present is about Aberdeen. The Dons did what they had to do to get back to Hampden and gives more credence to the job carried out by McInnes. Another final and another likely second-place.

He has talked of creating a legacy. If they can overcome either Celtic or Rangers next month that legacy will be set in stone.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "JOEL SKED"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4426882.1492883014!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426882.1492883014!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hibernian goalkeeper Ofir Marciano tries to rescue a draw. Pic: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hibernian goalkeeper Ofir Marciano tries to rescue a draw. Pic: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4426882.1492883014!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4426883.1492883019!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426883.1492883019!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Aberdeen's Jonny Hayes fires home the late winner. Pic: SNS/Craig Williamson","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Aberdeen's Jonny Hayes fires home the late winner. Pic: SNS/Craig Williamson","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4426883.1492883019!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4426884.1492883022!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426884.1492883022!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes shows his delight at full time. Pic: SNS/Craig Williamson","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes shows his delight at full time. Pic: SNS/Craig Williamson","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4426884.1492883022!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/five-things-we-learned-from-hibs-2-3-aberdeen-1-4426804","id":"1.4426804","articleHeadline": "Five things we learned from Hibs 2 - 3 Aberdeen","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492877688000 ,"articleLead": "

Aberdeen progress to May’s Scottish Cup final where they wait for the winners from the Old Firm derby after a thrilling clash with Hibernian. Here are five things we learned from the engrossing encounter.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426802.1492877684!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hibernian's John McGinn completes with Aberdeen's Graeme Shinnie. Pic: SNS/Craig Williamson"} ,"articleBody": "

Aberdeen’s pressure told

One of the most famous goals in Aberdeen history was scored in 1982. John Hewitt netted the fastest goal in Scottish Cup history at Fir Park after 9.6 seconds. That January strike set the Dons on course for European success 16 months later. Derek McInnes will be hoping that Adam Rooney’s goal after 11 seconds against Hibs will lead to success in just over a month’s time.

Rooney pounced on an egregious error from Darren McGregor before slamming into the corner past a helpless Ofir Marciano while Efe Ambrose lay prone on the surface having tried but failed to stop Rooney advancing in on goal.

It began from a very positive start from Aberdeen. Derek McInnes, in his post-match interview, said they were prepared for the way Hibs take kick-off. A horde of Aberdeen players bore down on John McGinn, won the ball to then spring forward. Marvin Bartley may have cut out the immediate danger but such was the pressure he only had one option, to pass back to McGregor. From there Aberdeen were ahead.

Last week, against St Johnstone, McInnes surprised many by playing Graeme Shinnie as the advanced midfielder. It worked as it gave Kenny McLean and Ryan Jack space to play in the midfield. McInnes stuck with the same set-up and having Shinnie’s powerful running and indefatigably allowed him to press from high up with support from the midfield and Rooney working across the front-line.

The Dons were everywhere in the opening half an hour, pinning Hibs back in their own half. Jason Cummings was isolated in attack with Martin Boyle and McGinn not able to get up to support. A lot of this was down to Aberdeen’s attitude. There was the sense that they wanted to prove they were the second best side in the country.

By forcing their game on Hibs they were able to play in their opponent’s half. This meant McLean was still able to become an influence in the final third despite being fielded in a deeper role. His one-two opened up Hibs in the 25th minute, only a Fraser Fyvie foul prevented the Dons advancing into the box, but they scored from the resultant free-kick. At that point and in the five minutes which followed it looked like Aberdeen may do to Hibs what they have done to a number of Premiership rivals this season.

But it would soon change.

Neil Lennon gets it wrong - then gets it right

Two moments in the opening 20 minutes demonstrated how difficult Hibs were finding their first return to Hampden since that David Gray header. First, a composed Lewis Stevenson appealed to his players for calm after four minutes. Just over ten minutes later an agitated Neil Lennon exploded at his midfield to show for the ball, to want it, to get on it.

As Lennon said in his explosive interview with Sky Sports after the game, you can’t legislate for individual errors. But it could equally be labelled at him. He simply got his tactics wrong. Having gone 4-4-2 against Hearts in the last-16 double header, Hibs were the deserved winners over the 180 minutes. They showed the Premiership side no respect. There was the sense that they perhaps respected Aberdeen too much, perhaps scared of what the Dons could do to them, rather than focusing on what they could do to their Premiership opponents.

They tried to play football, even after going down early on. He said as much post-match, saying McGregor should have launched the ball when it was passed back to him. Hibs were reticient hitting the ball long and bypassing Aberdeen’s pressure. Not launching it at Cummings who would simply lose the aerial battle to Ash Taylor but to find the space down the flanks for the striker to chase and try and bring the side up the pitch.

Many managers would wait until half-time. Lennon was proactive. Grant Holt was introduced for a distraught Fraser Fyvie, much to the delight of the Aberdeen support. Hibs finally had a focal point to play off.

Grant Holt rises to the occasion

Grant Holt hasn’t been maligned but he certainly hasn’t been adored by the Easter Road faithful. He has only scored three goals in 28 Championship appearances. He simply hasn’t been as effective as many imagined in the league. In fact he has disappointed. Certainly for a player who has scored 24 goals in 80 Premier League games in England.

However, he gained much respect in February when he was the best player over 180 minutes in the Edinburgh derbies. He thrived in the derby environment, feeding off the atmosphere. He seemed to gain a yard of pace, an extra few inches in his jump and a wee bit more muscle mass. He simply bullied the Hearts back line. He charged around, chucking his weight about, leaving his mark. Plus he scored.

He grabbed his second of the Scottish Cup run two minutes after entering the match. Martin Boyle found space for the first time in the midfield, drove forward, sped past Andrew Considine before finding Holt in the six-yard-box. Holt couldn’t miss but he positioned himself brilliantly with Ash Taylor completely unaware of the Hibs striker.

But, like the derby matches, he offered much more than a goal threat. His presence allowed Hibs to push higher up the pitch and squeeze the game. He bullied and provoked. While Jason Cummings was fobbed off with ease, Aberdeen’s players were unwilling to get drawn into the physical battle with Holt.

He was dropping into the midfield to get on the ball, link play and start attacks. To play-make.

He played a pivotal role in the excellent second goal; the recipient of a pass from Dylan McGeouch, while simultaneously pushing Anthony O’Connor back. He flicked the ball into McGeouch’s path. The midfielder ran on to it freely and slotted past Joe Lewis. As soon as the pass was made into Holt Taylor immediately changed his focus to the striker despite him being marked.

Hotl clearly left his mark, raising his performance for another big game. He didn’t deserved to be on the losing side.

The ghost of Hibs’ goalkeeping past

It is just over 11 years to the day Hibs suffered Hampden heartbreak in the shape of a 4-0 defeat to rivals Heart of Midlothian. There are similarities to the defeat to Aberdeen, namely individual errors.

Back in 2006 it was the infamous Zibi Malkowski. This afternoon it was Darren McGregor and Ofir Marciano. McGregor’s error will receive much of the focus, simply because it came only 10 seconds into the game.

However, Marciano’s failure to keep out Ryan Christie’s free-kick will send shivers down the spine of many Hibs fans. They will remember that Paul Hartley free-kick and that Malkowski misjudgement. Marciano was anticipating the pull-back to Kenny McLean but was out-foxed. Yet, he only shares some of the blame. The wall of Dylan McGeouch and Martin Boyle split meekly to allow the ball come into the area.

While Hibs’ goalkeeping past reared its head Hibs fans should be comforted knowing this was just a blip while the Israeli international is between the sticks. And going from the last few seconds he is a dab hand in the air.

Derek ‘Tinkerman’ McInnes

Aberdeen did not enjoy the second half, well until the full-time whistle. After being so dominant in the first 30 minutes they couldn’t adjust to the Hibs change which saw Grant Holt enter the fold.

Derek McInnes opted to go for a back three which was often a back five in the second half with Andrew Considine moving infield and Jonny Hayes playing as a wing-back. But that wasn’t all, Kenny McLean was pushed further forward and Graeme Shinnie dropped deeper. Then McLean was the highest player with Adam Rooney playing from the left.

Anthony O’Connor was brought on to solidify the Dons backline only to concede a matter of seconds after the substitution was made.

McInnnes’ biggest mistake in the opening months of the season was his willingness to tinker with not only his starting XI but the system in which they played, even during games. His micro-management clearly had a negative effect. But since defeat to Ross County in December it has been much more consistent. Even his changes when things haven’t been going well during the game you could see what McInnes was wanting to do, what he was trying. That wasn’t the case against Hibs.

Eventually, you could say his changes finally worked. Niall McGinn came on for Mark Reynolds which saw Hayes move from the left. It was he who skipped between Marvin Bartley and John McGinn to fire in the fortuitous winner.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "JOEL SKED"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4426802.1492877684!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426802.1492877684!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hibernian's John McGinn completes with Aberdeen's Graeme Shinnie. Pic: SNS/Craig Williamson","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hibernian's John McGinn completes with Aberdeen's Graeme Shinnie. Pic: SNS/Craig Williamson","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4426802.1492877684!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4426803.1492877688!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426803.1492877688!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Aberdeen's Adam Rooney scores the opener after 11 seconds. Pic: SNS/Bill Murray","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Aberdeen's Adam Rooney scores the opener after 11 seconds. Pic: SNS/Bill Murray","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4426803.1492877688!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs-2-3-aberdeen-how-the-players-rated-on-each-side-1-4426739","id":"1.4426739","articleHeadline": "Hibs 2 - 3 Aberdeen: How the players rated on each side","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492871475000 ,"articleLead": "

Ratings out of ten for every player in the first Scottish Cup semi-final of the weekend.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426737.1492871571!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hibernian's John McGinn and Aberdeen's Jonny Hayes battle for the ball. Pic: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire."} ,"articleBody": "

Hibernian

Ofir Marciano - 5

The Israeli stopper was caught day-dreaming as Ryan Christie whipped home Aberdeen’s second but almost scored a stunning equaliser after going up for a last-minute corner.

David Gray - 6

Last year’s cup final hero had to stay alert up against Dons danger man Jonny Hayes but gave the winger few openings.

Darren Mcgregor - 4

A day to forget for the boyhood Hibs fan. Cost his side the opener with a horror first-minute mistake before watching a Hayes strike nick his heel on its way into the net.

Efe Ambrose - 6

The on-loan Celtic defender started nervously but looked more assured the longer the game went on.

Lewis Stevenson - 6

A standard display of energy and determination from the left-back. Deliveries from crossing positions could have been sharper.

Marvin Bartley - 7

Snapped into tackles all afternoon but allowed Hayes too much room as he fired home the winner.

Fraser Fyvie - 5

Taken off midway through the first period with his side two goals down after failing to get a grip on opposite number Kenny McLean.

Dylan McGeouch - 7

Stroked the Leith men level on the hour mark after a slick exchange of passes with Holt. Had to go off injured soon after.

John McGinn - 7

Set Hibs’ nightmare start in motion as he lost possession straight from kick-off but his energy kept the capital outfit from being flattened.

Martin Boyle - 7

Quiet start but sparked his team back into life with great run and cross for Grant Holt’s goal.

Jason Cummings - 5

Appeared lost before Holt’s introduction but even with a partner to play off the striker struggled to get involved.

Subs

Grant Holt (for Fyvie, 34) - 8

Hibs looked down and out before Neil Lennon gambled by throwing on the big striker early. Paid off as spectacularly as he sparked a stirring fight-back.

Andrew Shinnie (for McGeouch, 63) - 5

Could not provide the quality Hibernian needed in the final stages.

Brian Graham (for Ambrose, 88) - 5

No time to make an impact.

Aberdeen

Joe Lewis - 6

Beaten by both Holt and McGeouch but the former Cardiff keeper was blameless for both. Crucial save at the death to deny Marciano’s header.

Shay Logan - 6

Unlucky not to find the corner of the net with a 25-yarde shot but showed composure at the death as Hibs piled on the pressure.

Ash Taylor - 5

Out muscled in the air as Holt leaped to head home and failed to track McGeouch for the second goal, but dealt well with Jason Cummings’ movement.

Mark Reynolds - 6

Back for his first start since February but can be happy enough with his 60-minute return run out.

Andrew Considine - 6

Was caught flat-footed as Boyle burned past him to tee up the Easter Road side’s first goal but kept his nerve as Hibs rained down balls in stoppage time.

Ryan Jack - 7

Involved in a good tussle with McGinn and the Dons skipper will feel he came out on top.

Graeme Shinnie - 7

Had to run off an early knock but worked himself into the ground as they game grew tense in the latter stages.

Ryan Christie - 7

Produced a moment of inspiration for his side’s second goal as he swept home a free-kick from an the unlikeliest of angles.

Kenny McLean - 8

Set the tempo as the Pittodrie men started on fire. Had to dig in as Hibs fought back.

Jonny Hayes - 6

The Irishman had barely threatened the Hibs defence but got his lucky break when his low shot wrong-footed Marciano after deflecting off McGregor.

Adam Rooney - 7

Gave his side the perfect start when he pounced for the opener with just 12 seconds on the clock.

Subs

Anthony O’Connor (for Christie, 59) - 6

Provided the Dons defence with extra bite in the nervy finale.

Niall McGinn (for Reynolds, 69) - 5

Groin injury meant he started on bench and looked short of fitness after coming on.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANDY NEWPORT"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4426737.1492871571!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426737.1492871571!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hibernian's John McGinn and Aberdeen's Jonny Hayes battle for the ball. Pic: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hibernian's John McGinn and Aberdeen's Jonny Hayes battle for the ball. Pic: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4426737.1492871571!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4426738.1492871575!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426738.1492871575!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hibernian goalkeeper Ofir Marciano tries to claw back the ball Aberdeen's Ryan Christie scores from the freekick. Pic: SNS/Bill Murray","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hibernian goalkeeper Ofir Marciano tries to claw back the ball Aberdeen's Ryan Christie scores from the freekick. Pic: SNS/Bill Murray","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4426738.1492871575!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/neil-lennon-slams-pathetic-hibs-performance-1-4426714","id":"1.4426714","articleHeadline": "Neil Lennon slams “pathetic” Hibs performance","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492870008000 ,"articleLead": "

Neil Lennon brandished his team’s performance “pathetic” despite a valiant effort to come back from losing two goals in the opening half an hour.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426712.1492870008!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hibernian manager Neil Lennon slammed his players. Pic: SNS/Bill Murray"} ,"articleBody": "

The despondent Hibs boss accused his players of giving away three goals and they would regret the first 30 minutes.

Aberdeen netted after 12 seconds through Adam Rooney following a defensive mistake before another error allowed Ryan Christie to double the Dons’ lead.

“Rubbish. Pathetic,” Lennon responded in an interview with Sky Sports when asked what he thought of his team’s performance.

“We’ve given three goals way, you can’t do that in a semi-final. We got back to 2-2 playing the football I expect of them. I don’t go for the gallant loser story, it doesn’t wash for me; not good enough.

“They (Aberdeen) got a huge slice of luck with the third goal, I can accept that. But the first two goals were unacceptable at any level.”

He added: “I have got plenty of character in there, where they showed it; they came back to 2-2 and looked like we were in a strong position but anything can happen.

“But you can’t give two-goal head starts to any team even though I though we were better, scored better goals. But it took us an age to get going.”

A first-half substitute, with Grant Holt coming on, saw Hibs gain a foothold. Holt scored the goal which got the capital side back into the game. Dylan McGeouch scored an excellent goal to equalise 15 minutes after half-time.

“The substitution changed things,” Lennon said. “We were in control, score two brilliant goals. The second one is a brilliant individual goal. McGeouch has got that.

“Delighted to see him score. He’s got plenty of talent, he hasn’t shown it enough. He’s a big game player and he’s shown in today.

“Unfortunately it has been the story of Dylan’s career, he had to come off with an injury which is a blow because we were in the ascendancy and we missed him when he went off.”

But Lennon was left to rue his players’ approach to the game.

“People will talk about tactics but you can’t legislate for a centre-half playing a square-ball to a centre-forward and you can’t legislate for breaking the wall and letting a free-kick come in at the near post,” he said.

“So tactically, it goes out the window, it’s decision making.

“They need to look at themselves. It’s a semi-final, you’ve got to play for 90 minutes or 120 minutes not 60.

“They’ll regret it, they were the better team for long periods. I’m not here to pamper them, to say well done after that, it’s no good.

It may sound a bit harsh but I expect better from some players. Some of them will regret that first 30 minutes.

“Even at the end, we’ve had chances. (Martin) Boyle’s in, go down, it’s a penalty; Jason should have got onto a long ball; my goalkeeper shows them how to head the ball towards the goal.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4426712.1492870008!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426712.1492870008!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hibernian manager Neil Lennon slammed his players. Pic: SNS/Bill Murray","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hibernian manager Neil Lennon slammed his players. Pic: SNS/Bill Murray","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4426712.1492870008!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/hibs-2-3-aberdeen-lennon-s-men-exit-cup-with-heads-held-high-1-4426685","id":"1.4426685","articleHeadline": "Hibs 2 - 3 Aberdeen: Lennon’s men exit cup with heads held high","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492867098000 ,"articleLead": "

Hibs’ defence of the Scottish Cup ended in spirited fashion after Aberdeen edged an exhilarating semi-final at Hampden.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426683.1492867432!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Aberdeen's Adam Rooney and Hibernian's Marvin Bartley battle. Pic: SNS/Bill Murray"} ,"articleBody": "

After a disastrous first half hour in which they fell two behind following errors by Darren McGregor and Ofir Marciano, the newly-crowned Championship winners responded magnificently to draw level through substitute Grant Holt and Dylan McGeouch. However, Aberdeen won it with six minutes left when Jonny Hayes’ strike took a huge deflection off McGregor and eluded Marciano.

Eleven months after their famous victory over Rangers in last year’s final, the Easter Road team were cheered off at the end by their 20,000 supporters who appreciated the effort they had put into trying to retain their trophy.

Hibs started in a 4-5-1 formation with Martin Boyle on the right and McGeouch on the left of a five-man midfield. Aberdeen winger Niall McGinn was listed among the substitutes after returning from a short injury lay-off.

All the pre-match talk had been of Hibs being in relaxed mood in the build-up after winning the Championship title last weekend. However, they were punished emphatically for a lackadaisical start as Aberdeen took the lead after just 13 seconds. Marvin Bartley ushered the ball back to McGregor, and the centre-back, usually so reliable, was horribly slack with a square pass to defensive sidekick Efe Ambrose and Adam Rooney nipped in to steal possession and despatch a clinical strike beyond Ofir Marciano from the edge of the box

Hibs struggled to recover their composure in the early stages and they fell behind in the 23rd minute after another error. Fraser Fyvie was booked after giving away a free-kick for a foul on Kenny McLean near the corner flag. Ryan Christie spotted Marciano slightly off his line and curled in a low effort which squirmed in at the Israeli’s near post.

With the Edinburgh side in danger of being swarmed, Lennon acted by taking off Fyvie in the 33rd minute and introducing Grant Holt in an effort to add more presence to the attack. Fyvie was visibly baffled by the decision as he made his way off.

However, there was vindication for the manager within three minutes when Martin Boyle picked up possession midway inside the Aberdeen half, darted into the right side of the penalty area and hung an inviting cross to the back post for Holt, who duly powered in a header from five yards out.

The Hibs support were galvanised by this and their team finished the first half in the ascendancy with John McGinn heading wide from a David Gray cross.

After an even start to the second half, Aberdeen right-back threatened with a low strike from 25 yards that ran inches wide of Marciano’s right-hand post. Dons manager Derek McInnes was clearly concerned by Holt’s influence on proceedings and responded by introducing Anthony O’Connor in place of attacker Christie in the 58th minute in order to add extra physical presence to the defence. Within two minutes of this change, Hibs had equalised, with Holt at the heart of it. McGeouch played a one-two with the big striker and the midfielder burst on to the return ball and sent a superb angled finish beyond Joe Lewis. Scenes of bedlam erupted among the Hibs support as Lennon danced jubilantly along to the corner flag.

When he returned to his technical area for the resumption of the match, he held his hand in the area for a sustained period, as if conducting the songs of his team’s delirious fans.

McGeouch, who has missed much of the season through injury, was taken off three minutes later. As he made his way off to be replaced by Andrew Shinnie, the goal hero received a warm hug from his manager.

Hibs looked the likelier side to go on and win it. However, it was Aberdeen who restored their lead with six minutes left when Jonny Hayes’ shot from 25 yards out, which looked like it was going to be dealt with by Marciano, took a huge deflection off McGregor and trundled agonisingly inside the goalkeeper’s right-hand post.

In the last action of the match, Marciano went up for a corner and saw his powerful header from a McGinn delivery saved by Lewis. Hibs were loudly cheered off at the end by an appreciative support as they relinquished their trophy in gallant fashion.

Hibs: Marciano, Gray, McGregor, Ambrose (Graham 88), Stevenson, Boyle, Fyvie (Holt 33), McGinn, Bartley, (Shinnie 63), Cummings. Unused subs: Laidlaw, Keatings, Forster, Humphrey.

Booked: Fyvie 23, Holt 77.

Aberdeen: Lewis, Logan, Taylor, Reynolds (McGinn 69), Considine, Jack, Shinnie, Christie (O’Connor 58), McLean, Hayes, Rooney. Unused subs: Alexander, Pawlett, Stockley, Wright, Storey.

Booked: Shinnie 81.

Ref: John Beaton

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANTHONY BROWN at Hampden Park"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4426683.1492867432!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426683.1492867432!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Aberdeen's Adam Rooney and Hibernian's Marvin Bartley battle. Pic: SNS/Bill Murray","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Aberdeen's Adam Rooney and Hibernian's Marvin Bartley battle. Pic: SNS/Bill Murray","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4426683.1492867432!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4426684.1492867434!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426684.1492867434!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hibernian goalkeeper Ofir Marciano is unable to keep out Aberdeen Ryan Christie's effort. Pic: SNS/Rob Casey","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hibernian goalkeeper Ofir Marciano is unable to keep out Aberdeen Ryan Christie's effort. Pic: SNS/Rob Casey","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4426684.1492867434!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/lennon-feels-for-dons-as-20-000-hibbies-head-for-hampden-1-4426055","id":"1.4426055","articleHeadline": "Lennon feels for Dons as 20,000 Hibbies head for Hampden","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492839051000 ,"articleLead": "

Neil Lennon admits he has sympathy for Aberdeen supporters, who will be outnumbered by their Hibs counterparts at Hampden today.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426054.1492784299!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hibs fans will outnumber their Aberdeen counterparts today"} ,"articleBody": "

Hibs have sold almost 20,000 tickets for the semi-final showdown, which kicks off at 12.15pm.

By contrast, the Dons have shifted just more than 12,000, and Lennon believes the logistics of getting from Aberdeen to Glasgow for midday is the primary reason for the disparity in ticket sales between the clubs.

“You are asking them to travel for a 12.15 kick off and I think that is really unfair on the Aberdeen fans,” said the Hibs manager. “It is a showpiece game. It is just location more than anything else.

“I don’t think it’s indifference to the game. But if there is any advantage to that then we will take whatever advantage we can get on the pitch or off the pitch.”

The last semi-final between the teams five years ago – played at the same time – drew a crowd of 28,278.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANTHONY BROWN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4426054.1492784299!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426054.1492784299!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hibs fans will outnumber their Aberdeen counterparts today","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hibs fans will outnumber their Aberdeen counterparts today","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4426054.1492784299!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/darren-mcgregor-sure-hibs-can-stop-aberdeen-s-wide-boys-1-4426233","id":"1.4426233","articleHeadline": "Darren McGregor sure Hibs can stop Aberdeen’s wide boys","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492839050000 ,"articleLead": "

Darren McGregor is confident Hibs are equipped to clip Aberdeen’s wings as they face their toughest test of the season at Hampden today.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426231.1492795694!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hibs captain David Gray will have to deal with the threat of Jonny Hayes"} ,"articleBody": "

The 31-year-old is a central figure in a highly-regarded defensive unit which will be tasked with keeping at bay a dangerous Dons attack.

Central striker Adam Rooney has scored 17 goals this season; supporting midfielder Kenny McLean is in excellent form, and Jonny Hayes and Niall McGinn are widely viewed as two of the most threatening wide men in Scotland.

However, McGregor, who is likely to be part of a back four comprising Efe Ambrose and dependable full-backs David Gray and Lewis Stevenson, is adamant Hibs can stand up to what looks a formidable challenge.

“There are two main threats for me in the Aberdeen team,” said McGregor. “As we are well aware, they are very good at set-pieces. They have proven that. I watched the Dundee game and I thought they were outstanding. But we’ve got a good aerial presence and are good at defending set-pieces. Their wingers cause lots of teams problems. Jonny Hayes and McGinn are great players, but to counter that, we’ve got Dave Gray and Lewis Stevenson. There are not many guys get past them and get crosses into the box. It will definitely be a good duel but I’m confident that we will prevail.”

As well as the faith he has in the two full-backs, McGregor also takes confidence from the fact he will have Ambrose alongside him. The Nigerian has been a revelation since arriving on loan from Celtic at the start of March.

“He was unfairly made a scapegoat and frowned upon at Celtic but he shows his class here,” said McGregor. “He is so relaxed and composed on the ball, which is completely the opposite to what I am. He is great to have around. He is so happy and cheerful. He brings a real lightening mood to the team. It’s just a shame that we probably won’t be able to keep him with the wage bracket he is on, but it has been good to have him. I’d say our most important game of the season was Dundee United away [last month] and he won man of the match that night, which shows you how influential he was. He has been a massive factor in getting us over the line.”

McGregor does not believe there is a big gulf between Aberdeen, who are nine points clear in second place in the Premiership, and Hibs, who sealed the Championship title last weekend. The defender insists all the pressure is on the Dons, however, because his own team won the Scottish Cup last year and have already achieved their primary objective for this season.

‘I think we match up very well to Aberdeen,” he said. “All the pressure is honestly on them. We set out at the start of the season and the mandate was to win the league. Anything else was a bonus. Now that apprehension is away and we’re heading into this game confident, with clear minds.

“We know that Aberdeen are strong all over the park. They’ve got some really good players. In fact, I don’t think they’ve got any weaknesses, to be honest. But I believe that we’re a big-game team. We’ve proved that in past years.

“It’s a win-win for us. If we go and just give a good account of ourselves, the fans will be happy because we’ve won the league and reached the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup.

“If we do manage to win, it’s the cherry on top of the cake, another Scottish Cup Final – which the Hibs fans have been spoiled with.”

Last year, the Scottish Cup triumph effectively salvaged Hibs’ season after they missed out on promotion and lost the League Cup final to Ross County. This time round, the Easter Road side are able to approach their trip to Hampden in a more relaxed manner.

“Last year, we had all our eggs in one basket, everything riding on the Scottish Cup as a saving grace,” said McGregor. “So the anxiety and apprehension going into that game was huge because we knew it all came down to that.

“But this time we go into it knowing we’ve won the league, knowing we’ve given a good account of ourselves to reach the last four as holders. So, if it ends here, we’ve done well. But I’m confident it won’t end here.”

McGregor doesn’t expect to be as anxious today as he was when he arrived at Hampden for last year’s final against Rangers. However, he insists Hibs’ laidback approach to this weekend’s encounter shouldn’t be mistaken for a lack of desire to retain their trophy.

“When I arrived at Hampden, I was nervous, to be honest. Of course I was,” he said. “Every player will tell you the same thing. I was even more nervous because, deep down, I knew what it meant to the fans. The Ross County loss in the League Cup final, we’d come so close, I knew we’d been so close in the play-off against Falkirk.

“So, personally, going up against a team that had released me the year before, it was massive. But, if you overthink it, it can be catastrophic. For me, it was just about breathing and taking in the spectacle, trying to do my job as best as I could. I felt I did that, apart from letting Kenny Miller score!

“Ask any player, these are the games you want to play in, at Hampden, in front of 50,000 fans, for the club you support. This year is a tad easier because we’ve done what we set out to do in winning the title.

“But we’ve still got the passion and the desire to win it again. And I believe that the squad we’ve got is good enough.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANTHONY BROWN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4426231.1492795694!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426231.1492795694!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hibs captain David Gray will have to deal with the threat of Jonny Hayes","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hibs captain David Gray will have to deal with the threat of Jonny Hayes","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4426231.1492795694!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4426232.1492795696!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426232.1492795696!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Darren McGregor","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Darren McGregor","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4426232.1492795696!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/hibee-history-supersub-benji-wins-the-derby-1-4423521","id":"1.4423521","articleHeadline": "Hibee History: Supersub Benji wins the derby","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492839026000 ,"articleLead": "

Moroccan striker Abdessalam Benjelloun came off the bench to score the winner for Hibs as they dented Hearts’ hopes of Champions League qualification.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423519.1492723584!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Abdessalam Benjelloun fires the winning goal home, the ball evading Ibrahim Talls intervention"} ,"articleBody": "

The visitors’ line-up had again been controversial, with Rudi Skacel and Edgaras Jankauskas both dropped and Andy Webster, who was refusing to sign a new contract, once again left sitting in the stand.

Jose Goncalves and Takis Fyssas were out injured, so in came Ibrahim Tall and Lee Wallace, Deividas Cesnauskis and Calum Elliot for Valdas Ivanuaskas’ side.

Hibs, themselves chasing a Uefa Cup place, were without Kevin Thomson, the playmaker was ill and replaced by Ivan Sproule.

Hearts had demolished their rivals 4-0 at Hampden Park less than three weeks previously in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup, yet it was their hosts who, following a typically frantic start, took the lead after 14 minutes.

Hibs midfielder Jay Shields robbed a hesitant Paul Hartley in midfield, with the ball breaking to Sproule on the right.

The Irishman drove his cross to the back post, where Derek Riordan took a touch before brilliantly rifling his right-footed shot from 16 yards past Craig Gordon and into the far corner of the net.

A great tackle by Hartley prevented Riordan grabbing a second soon after, before Steven Fletcher volleyed a Shields cross over the bar from close range.

But, with seconds to go in the first half, the visitors drew level with a bizarre goal.

Czech striker Roman Bednar chased a long through ball from Robbie Neilson after Hibs captain Gary Caldwell seemed to have shepherded the ball back to goalkeeper Zbigniew Malkowski.

However, the ball slipped from the keeper’s grasp, allowing the big striker the easiest of tasks to slip the ball into the empty net.

That appeared to inspire Bednar, who came close immediately after the break, twice firing just wide of the post.

Hearts were creating more chances and Bruno Aguiar was inches wide of the target with a speculative attempt from 30 yards.

Senegalese defender Tall then rose unmarked in the home box but headed wide following a fine Hartley cross.

Hibs boss Tony Mowbray brought on Paul Dalglish and Benjelloun and they combined to put his side in front against the run of play, the Moroccan driving the ball home from 16 yards.

Substitute Skacel almost caught out Malkowski with a quickly-taken free-kick late on, but Hibs held on for victory.

Hearts would close out the season in second place, securing qualification for the Champions League – a point ahead of Rangers in third spot. Hearts would also win the Scottish Cup in 2006, famously beating Gretna on penalties at Hampden Park.

Hibs ended their season in fourth, also qualifying for Europe in the form of the Intertoto Cup. They won their first round tie against Latvian side Dinaburg, before going out on away goals to Odense Boldklub of Denmark despite a 2-1 win at Easter Road.

Hibs: Malkowski, Whittaker, Murphy, Hogg, Caldwell, Shields, Glass, Konde, Sproule, Fletcher, Riordan

Hearts: Gordon, Neilson, Tall, Berra, Wallace, Cesnauskis, Hartley, Aguiar, Mikoliunas, Bednar, Elliot

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Hibs 2, Hearts 1. April 22, 2006"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4423519.1492723584!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4423519.1492723584!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Abdessalam Benjelloun fires the winning goal home, the ball evading Ibrahim Talls intervention","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Abdessalam Benjelloun fires the winning goal home, the ball evading Ibrahim Talls intervention","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4423519.1492723584!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/hibs-boss-relishing-aberdeen-acid-test-for-his-players-1-4426208","id":"1.4426208","articleHeadline": "Hibs boss relishing Aberdeen ‘acid test’ for his players","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1492839020000 ,"articleLead": "

Neil Lennon admits today’s Scottish Cup semi-final showdown with Aberdeen is an acid test of Hibs’ ability to compete at the top end of the Premiership next season.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426207.1492793983!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hibs head coach Neil Lennon is looking forward to seeing how his players perform against Aberdeen, the second-best team in Scotland"} ,"articleBody": "

The Easter Road side head to Hampden on the back of winning promotion from the Championship last weekend. Lennon has lofty aspirations for next season and he believes today’s match against a side currently nine points clear in second place in the top flight will give him an idea of how well equipped his team are at present.

“It is an acid test for the players,” he said. “They will be playing against the team second in the table, who are well clear of Rangers and that takes a bit of doing. They have split the Old Firm and that takes a bit of doing and they have already been to one final this season so that is impressive. 
“I think they have improved year on year under Derek [McInnes] and they have been really consistent so it is a really good test for us.”

Lennon is already confident about the ability of his team to compete with the likes of Aberdeen, Rangers, Hearts and St Johnstone next season, although he is keen to add reinforcements. Saints midfielder Danny Swanson has agreed a pre-contract with the Easter Road club, who have also been linked with Piotr Parzyszek, the Polish striker who has scored 25 goals this season for Dutch second-tier side De Graafschap. “I think we can challenge [next season], yeah, but I would like to do a bit of additional work to the squad,” he said.

“I think I have a good core of players I am really happy with and who could comfortably deal with the Premiership and the majority of the teams they will come up against. But I think there are one or two areas where I need to get better quality in if we are going to be consistent at that level next year.”

Having been favourites for all of their league matches this season, Lennon is content for his side to be cast as underdogs as they continue their defence of the Scottish Cup today.

“We have had that [being favourites] all season and I had it all my career at Celtic so it is difficult,” he said.

“To be fair to Aberdeen, they have handled the games pretty well this season except when they have been underdogs against Celtic, who are different class at the minute. But Aberdeen are favourites and their fans will be expecting to get to the final against a championship team, although we are not a championship team any more, and we know we are going into the game as underdogs.

“That will be a novelty for us this year.

“It takes two teams to make a game and the majority of the time, when people have been saying ‘it’s not a great game to watch’ we have 
been the ones doing all the pressing and trying to win the game while other teams have been trying to be hard to beat.

“The teams we have gone up against find it difficult because we have players who can hurt them. I hope it is going to be an open game because that will suit us as much as it will suit Aberdeen.”

Hibs will again be without injured centre-backs Paul Hanlon and Liam Fontaine, but winger Chris Humphrey is back in contention after a two-month lay-off.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANTHONY BROWN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4426207.1492793983!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4426207.1492793983!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hibs head coach Neil Lennon is looking forward to seeing how his players perform against Aberdeen, the second-best team in Scotland","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hibs head coach Neil Lennon is looking forward to seeing how his players perform against Aberdeen, the second-best team in Scotland","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4426207.1492793983!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} ]}}} ]}