Neil Lennon believes the sense of injustice his players feel following the first leg of their Europa League tie against Brondby can help them pull off a shock in Copenhagen tomorrow night.
The Easter Road boss and his squad were left incensed when striker Jason Cummings had what they saw as a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside, leaving them trailing in their second qualifying round match to Kamil Wilczek’s strike after 16 seconds. That incident led to Lennon being sent to the stand after remonstrating with assistant referee Miguel Martinez, who had made that decision, the upshsot being a one-match touchline suspension which bans him from his team’s dressing-room before and during the game, from the tunnel area and the away dug-out.
However, while admitting that scenario was not ideal, Lennon insisted he had full trust in his right-hand man Garry Parker, who will have the club’s academy coaching manager Eddie May alongside him on the night.
He said: “I think what’s happened is really harsh but we have to make the best of it. We’ll do all our prep work before we leave the team hotel, Garry and I will speak at length about it. Garry is experienced enough to deal with it and he’ll have another experienced guy in Eddie with him.”
While Hibs’ gameplan will be well-rehearsed, there could well be unexpected problems such as injuries, but Lennon insisted: “Obviously, we’d want to avoid that but, if we do pick up an injury, we’ll have the right man to replace him in the right formation. The squad is flexible with the players we have.”
Although he concedes Hibs are “massive underdogs”, Lennon was adamant the tie is far from over, reasoning that his Brondby counterpart Alexander Zorniger now has to decide whether to “stick or twist” given the narrow advantage his side enjoys. He said: “Will they go for it early in the game? It’s important we stay patient regardless of what Brondby throw at us. The players will be ready for it. We had a good look at Brondby last week. I think there’s a wee sense of injustice there which hopefully we can use and channel in the right way.”
Despite being disappointed at the final outcome at Easter Road last week, Lennon was heartened by much of what he saw from his players in what was their first competitive match of the season.
He said: “The mentality of the players is good. They showed plenty of character and great will as well considering where we were in terms of pre-season. Our physical levels surprised me. The games was played at a ferocious pace and tempo – particularly in the first half – but we finished the game well. They’ll feel the benefit of those ninety minutes. We’ve done a few more days training witth plenty of recovery and they’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be tough. We’re massive underdogs but it is not beyond us. Brondby are favourites to go through, but the tie is still in the balance. There was a bit of rustiness in the final third, the final ball wasn’t quite there but, as we get fitter and sharper, that will come.”
While a question mark remains over the fitness of midfielder Fraser Fyvie – he did some rehabilitation work yesterday as he recovers from a knee injury – Lennon revealed defender Jordon Forster is fit while striker James Keatings, who suffered a knock in scoring a hat-trick against Coldstream at the weekend, should make it.