Hibs boss glad he took ‘gamble’ on Kamberi and Maclaren

Florian Kamberi has bagged two goals for Hibs
Florian Kamberi has bagged two goals for Hibs
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Hibs boss Neil Lennon has admitted he took a gamble in replacing leading scorers Anthony Stokes and Simon Murray with two unknown strikers in Florian Kamberi and Jamie Maclaren.

But he believes the arrival of Swiss hitman Kamberi and Australian internationalist Jamie Maclaren has brought a “freshness” to his Easter Road squad, both players having played their part as the Capital club have stepped up their fight for a place in the Europa League by beating their closest rivals Rangers and Aberdeen.

Jamie MacLaren

Jamie MacLaren

While Stokes had his contract ripped up following a second highly-publicised breach of discipline while in Portugal during the winter break, Murray was allowed to leave on loan for Dundee, a move in which midfielder Scott Allan returned to Hibs.

However, Lennon was well aware he was losing plenty of potential goals in doing so, Stokes and Murray having scored 25 between them in the first half of the season.

He said: “It was a gamble. Those two were our highest goalscorers and the two coming in were unknown guys to most.

“The Stokes thing was something you don’t plan for but I felt I had to deal with and you have to back yourself on that. Hopefully, we have put it behind us. Simon was an opportunity to get Scott in because I felt he would give us something a little bit different. Simon did very well at the weekend and got two very good goals for Dundee, so that’s worked out for him.

“And it’s worked out for us. Kamberi has been a big bonus. We had him for a week, ten days, to have a good look at him. We felt he could offer us something and he has.

“I’ve been delighted with Maclaren’s two performances, his maturity, his movement and his football intelligence. But that’s all we are talking about, two performances although I have to say they were against very good opposition.

“I’m delighted with what the two new boys have brought – there is a freshness.”

Four wins in five league matches have put Hibs five points behind Rangers and Aberdeen in the chase for second place in the Premiership but Lennon has his sights set on muscling in on what he sees as the closest title race for years even although he believes Celtic, currently nine points clear, will again take the flag.

Brendan Rodgers’ side were held to a no-scoring draw by St Johnstone at the weekend as the Celtic boss clearly prioritised Thursday night’s Europa League clash with Zenit St Petersburg as they seek to protect their one-goal lead from the first leg but, as Lennon pointed out, they actually increased their advantage over the chasing pack.

He said: “They are nine points clear whereas they were eight ahead going into the weekend. It’s going to be very difficult for the chasing pack but why not? You could say there is a title race on. Rangers, Aberdeen, ourselves, the teams behind, we need to find consistency if there is going to be any sort of title challenge at all.”

• HIBS have been drawn to face Celtic at home in the semi-finals of the SFA Youth Cup. The date and venue for the match is yet to be confirmed.