Hibs boss says Alex Harris key to Euro fightback

Malmo Train at Easter Road. Picture: Toby Williams
Malmo Train at Easter Road. Picture: Toby Williams
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Pat Fenlon has tipped teenage sensation Alex Harris to spark a night of European glory as Hibs seek to stage a remarkable comeback against crack Swedish outfit Malmo.

The Easter Road club go into the return leg of their Europa League second qualifying round tie against the Swedes trailing by two goals following the first match seven days ago in the Swedbank Stadion but remain cautiously optimistic of overhauling that deficit, a belief seemingly shared by their fans with more than 13,000 tickets having already been sold.

Fenlon admits his side face a tough task against a team halfway through a season in which they’ve lost just twice. However, he feels he saw enough in a cameo performance from 18-year-old winger Harris last week to suggest the tie isn’t beyond Hibs. Harris played only the final 13 minutes of the game in Malmo as he overcame a thigh knock sustained in Hibs’ final pre-season match but is now fully fit and certain to be in Fenlon’s plans from the start tonight, the manager no doubt hoping the youngster can spark a repeat of Hibs’ stunning fightback in last season’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Falkirk when his first goal for the club saw Hibs win 4-3 after being three goals down at the interval.

The Hibs boss said: “Alex has had a couple of days of good training and there was no recurrence. He gives us a completely different dimension to what we have, he can play on both sides and he is a real threat for us. It is up to us to get him enough of the ball to cause problems.

“Alex added pace last week that we maybe lacked until that point. Liam Craig is a really good player but is completely different to Alex, so if we can get the two of them on the park then it will be a real attacking threat for us.”

Hibs, though, will again be without defender Ryan

McGivern, the Northern Ireland defender having failed to recover from a knee injury as had been hoped meaning last week’s back four of Lewis Stevenson, James McPake, Jordon Forster and Paul Hanlon are likely to be charged with the

onerous task of ensuring

Malmo don’t get that killer third goal which would leave Fenlon’s side needing four to win the tie.

Fenlon admitted scoring first would be crucial, but urged patience. He said: “If we score first then we change the game and it is a completely different tie. We need the first goal and we need to be cautious in

regard to not conceding.

“The first goal does not have to be after a few minutes. I’d be happy for it to come in 80 minutes. If you can score early, then great and get the crowd up and at it. But I think they will be up for it from the start.”

Meanwhile, Fenlon was reluctant to discuss reports linking Hibs with Swindon Town striker James Collins and claims a bid of £200,00 had been

accepted. He said: “We are trying to sign players, when we have got anything done we will let people know.”

n Hibs’ Under-20 side remain unbeaten in their bid to retain the Foyle Cup in Northern Ireland after drawing 2-2 with Inishowen Youth League while the club’s Under-17s clocked up a third successive victory, winning 3-0 against Monaghan Youth League.