Neil Lennon today predicted Easter Road fans are about to see the best of Andrew Shinnie after the midfielder produced what he rated a man-of-the-match performance as Hibs came from behind against Dunfermline last weekend to end a run of five winless matches.
The former Inverness Caley player has endured an indifferent start to his career in a green-and-white shirt since arriving in Edinburgh on a season-long loan from English Championship outfit Birmingham City.
But Lennon believes the 27-year-old’s display at East End Park, where he won a penalty and laid on a third goal for striker Brian Graham in the 3-1 win which pushed Hibs three points clear at the top of the Championship table, was a sign of better things to come both from the player and his team.
Lennon said: “I thought we were outstanding – the best we have played all season. Even in the first half, I felt we looked really at it and physically we looked strong. Our football was good and we were looking dangerous without taking the chances.
“In the second half, I thought we were brilliant, I got everything I wanted out of the team. I knew it was there and then, all of a sudden, it came together and now you are hoping that the penny has dropped and we can go on and be consistent in that level of performance.”
And Lennon singled out the contribution of Shinnie, saying: “He made a huge difference. A couple of weeks ago, he looked physicaly frail, not really at it and slow in his thinking. But he was the best player on the pitch in the second half by a long, long way.
“Then the likes of [John] McGinn and [Fraser] Fyvie responded to that and [Martin] Boyle came on and was a real pest for the Dunfermline defence.” Shinnie himself admitted the fact he played hardly any football last season was a factor in what was a difficult period both for him and his new team-mates, but insisted he now feels his match fitness returning.
Lennon agreed that possibly playing “catch-up” in terms of fitness had hampered Shinnie thus far, adding: “There was maybe a wee settling-in period having moved up here from Birmingham and maybe being in a hotel. But now he has his own accommodation sorted out and I think we will see the best of him and what a good player he is. He showed all those qualities on Saturday and now we are hoping he goes on and does that week in, week out, because he certainly has the game.
“He is a fit lad, he’s intelligent and he’s stronger now than he was two or three weeks ago. Maybe that’s a mental thing, but he’s taking the hits a lot better than he was before and he certainly had a huge influence on the game last week.”
Meanwhile, Lennon admitted he “wasn’t exactly jumping through hoops” after UEFA cut the five-match ban imposed after he was sent to the stand during the first leg of Hibs’ Europa League tie with Danish side Brondby to four games.
Lennon had signalled his intention to plead his case in person but revealed: “I think it’s still excessive but there was no point in going over there and going through the whole rigmarole because I don’t think you’ll persuade them.
“We’ve done all we can from our end, I suppose. From a legal point of view, we talked it through and we felt that correspondence was probably the best way forward. We got some sort of result anyway.”