Daniel Mackay, Josh Doig, Scott Allan - Hibs left with several selection posers for European clash

Hibs will kick-off their season in front of around 4700 fans at Easter Road tomorrow night when they embark on their first European adventure since 2018.

By Moira Gordon
Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 4:31 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 5:04 pm

That year, under Neil Lennon, they progressed past Faroese side Runavik and Asteras Tripolis of Greece, before being ousted at the third qualifying round stage by Norwegians Molde.

On paper, Jack Ross’ men should be able to see off Santa Coloma, with the Andorran side unlikely to pose many problems for players who operated at the top realm of Scottish football last season and appear to be in similar form heading into a fresh term.

The pre-season games were all about trying to get everyone as match fit as possible before the start of the new campaign, while also generating some positive momentum as they switch to competitive mode for their Conference League second qualifying round tie.

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Kevin Nisbet, Martin Boyle and Joe Newell are all expected to make the Hibs starting line-up against Santa Coloma but manager Jack Ross has other selection issues to resolve. Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group

While Ross admitted that getting solid intel on team selection has proved difficult, with the Andorran league still in summer shutdown, and rival manager Albert Jorquera juggling personnel between each leg of the previous tie.

But it could be just as tricky for the visitors to suss out just who will get the nod in Hibs starting line up.

Some of that uncertainty is as a consequence of injuries, with Chris Cadden, Jamie Murphy and summer signing Jake Doyle-Hayes all likely to miss out with injury niggles.

It means that in front of Matt Macey in goals, newly-announced vice captain Paul McGinn and captain Paul Hanlon will feature in defence.

Ryan Porteous featured against Arsenal while Darren McGregor was rested for that one but did return against Raith Rovers on Friday. It is anticipated that Ross, who remains hopeful of adding to his defensive options soon, will give the younger player the nod.

Josh Doig, along with Christian Doidge, had a difficult pre-season due to positive covid tests, but did start against Stoke and, most recently, Raith Rovers.

He has ongoing competition at left-back from Lewis Stevenson but, at home, as strong favourites, and eager to put the tie to bed as soon as possible, Doig’s greater pace and greater attacking threat should offer him his introduction to European football.

Ahead of that backline, even with the aforementioned injury absentees, Ross has several options.

The available personnel still offer flexibility in terms of formation and with Doidge unlikely to make the starting XI, a lot will depend on whether Martin Boyle is utilised up front, alongside Kevin Nisbet, or in a wider position.

Joe Newell will play, with Daniel Mackay and Scott Allan favourites to join him, leaving one more spot up for grabs, with the likes of Kyle Magennis and Alex Gogic, or even young Steven Bradley, Jamie Gullan, Melker Hallberg and Drey Wright all staking a claim.

Much will depend on the research carried out and how cautious Ross wants to be, initially.

Adamant that they will not underestimate their visitors, Hibs know they should be too much for them. But they will be professional, picking a side capable of delivering goals without leaving the defence exposed to any shocks as they look to reward the fans who have waited a long time to watch live competitive action, and ensure they jet off for the second leg, next week, in the best shape to progress.

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