Daryl Horgan had just one thought as he lined up to face League Two Elgin City when Hibs opened their latest assault on the Scottish Cup – not to be the victims of a giant-killing.
Any such worries, however, proved totally unfounded as Neil Lennon’s players cruised to an easy victory, the match statistics simply underlining the gulf between them and a team sitting 31 places below them in Scottish football’s pecking order.
Two thirds of possession, an astonishing 33 shots at goal, 14 of which were on target but only four of which found the back of Elgin goalkeeper Thomas McHale’s net, were figures which amplified the dominance the Premiership side enjoyed.
Indeed, Lennon’s assistant head coach Garry Parker was not being unreasonable when suggesting the margin of victory should have been even greater. Certainly there should have been more goals, Flo Kamberi seeing another penalty saved, for instance, but an early strike from the Swiss hitman, two from Horgan and a second spot-kick expertly tucked away by Stevie Mallan, were more than enough to ensure Hibs achieved their objective – to be in the draw for the fifth round.
As thoughts turned to a return to Premiership action with away games against Motherwell and St Mirren to come this week as the Capital club seek to drive themselves back into the top half of the table, Republic of Ireland internationalist Horgan said: “This was a good one for us to ease into but Wednesday and then Saturday are just as important for getting the season going. That is the priority now, but this was our focus all week. It is the cup and you don’t want to be the team that is first on Sportscene because Hibs have been put out in the big shock result.
“That was the last thing any of us wanted and thankfully that’s not what happened. We played well and we were well worth the win. It was a big step up for Elgin and I thought that at times they played some nice stuff and had some good players and we respected them – and thankfully we did.
“But now that’s done we can look forward to Wednesday and hopefully get the win and we can worry about the next game after that.”
Hibs, effectively, had the game won by half-time, Ryan Gauld displaying early signs that the loanee from Sporting Lisbon will be a key figure over the second half of the season, the former Dundee United a pivotal influence in the middle of the park with his movement, touch and vision.
And it was the 23-year-old who unlocked the visiting defence, spotting Kamberi’s run and delivering an inch-perfect pass into his path, allowing his team-mate to round McHale and stroke the ball home from a tight-ish angle.
Horgan got the first of his two goals with a rare header, taking a sore one from McHale in the process, not that he was complaining. “It was just my second ever with my head. You could say they are rare enough, but I won’t complain as long as they go in.
“The goalkeeper left one on me, but that’s his job and I don’t blame him at all. No harm done.”
Having seen his previous spot-kick saved by Livingston goalkeeper Liam Kelly, Kamberi had to look on again as McHale threw himself to his right to push away his effort from 12 yards after Steven Whittaker’s legs had been whipped from underneath him by Rubin Omar.
Little surprise then when Mallan stepped up when referee Nick Walsh pointed to the spot again, Kamberi having been tripped by Brain Cameron on the stroke of half-time, the midfielder showing his team-mate how it should be done.
When Horgan claimed his second of the game just nine minutes after the interval, tapping home a Whittaker cross, Elgin boss Gavin Price later admitted he feared the worst but while happy at the way his players stuck to their task and so prevented what might have been a demoralising defeat. However, even he would have conceded hat could have been the case but for some profligate finishing again from Hibs
And Horgan added: “This was a good result, we’re happy to be in the next round of the cup, but we have to keep that going. We want to be in there [top six], that’s where everyone wants to be.
“We all want to be fighting for European places and playing our best come the end of the season. But we have to improve if we want to do that. We are a bit out of if just now so we are going to have to be much, much better than we have been.
“I have to improve myself, that’s key for all of us.
“We are sitting eighth in the league and that’s not good enough. We want to get into the top six and then push on into the top four and we want to go far in the cup as well.”