Hibs boss Alan Stubbs today claimed his players had exorcised their ghosts in their first match at Easter Road since suffering the trauma of relegation.
Stubbs admitted there had been a touch of nerves and trepidation in the home dressing-room before the pre-season friendly with Dundee United, the game coming just two months after that dramatic penalty shoot-out against Hamilton which provoked furious protests from fans with calls for chairman Rod Petrie to go.
But while conceding that had led to a cautious start, Stubbs felt his players, while having lost the game to a late Chris Erskine strike, had produced a performance which would have left their supporters with “a lot more optimism and excitement” than they probably envisaged a few weeks ago.
He said: “The game wasn’t about the result but for me the players have overcome a huge hurdle, their first game in front of the fans. There were nerves and trepidation before the game because they were not too sure what to expect so I think when they started the match there was a little bit of caution.
“However, once they found their stride it was there for all the fans to see that we are trying to get it down and play – but with an effect. I don’t just want to play and look nice, I want us to create chances, to have opportunities at goal and I felt we did that.
“I have huge admiration for the players for the way they tried to play – they kept looking to get on the ball. We caused United problems, they caused us problems at times with their movement, but I think we worked it out quite well. From that point of view, it was a great exercise for us, the hardest team we have come up against by quite a bit – a team that’s probably going to be right up there challenging for second or third spot in the Premiership – and I think the lads stood up to that challenge. Obviously it was just a friendly, we start for real against Rangers, but this was a huge step towards that.”
Hull City goalkeeper Mark Oxley played the entire 90 minutes as a trialist with Stubbs expecting the 23-year-old to end his search for a No.1 by signing a season-long loan deal today. The Hibs head coach said: “I’ve told you all along I wanted to get one in place, it was just a matter of getting the right one.
“Some people panic, but that’s not my style. I knew what I wanted, I said I didn’t mind waiting, that I would wait for the right one and I feel as if I have got that.” Newcastle United midfielder Michael Richardson was one of six substitutes Stubbs introduced 17 minutes from time and the 22-year-old trialist will get a further chance in Wednesday’s friendly against East Fife at Bayview. Stubbs said: “He has been with us for a few days, he’ll be involved on Wednesday and we’ll take it from there.”
• Callum Crane, Jordan Sinclair, Neil Martyniuk and Scott Martin all scored as Hibs’ Under-20 side defeated Haddington Athletic.
The Easter Road youngsters are back in action on Wednesday when they face Selkirk at Yarrow Park (kick-off 6.45pm).