Neil Lennon lauded Fraser Murray after the teenager delivered another eye-catching performance as much-changed Hibs edged out Raith Rovers.
The 17-year-old midfielder shone on his only previous outing for the first team when he scored in an Irn-Bru Cup win over Turriff United last September. And the academy prospect was once again one of the Easter Road side’s most impressive performers as he made his league debut in a hard-fought 3-2 home victory over Rovers.
“To make a debut like that at 17, it augurs well,” said Lennon. “I’m not going to get carried away but we know we’ve got a good player there and he showed all his qualities. He looked very assured. It was a great debut.”
Lennon made ten changes to the side which lost to Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup semi-final last weekend as he gave game time to his fringe players and youngsters. The manager defended his decision to rest his big guns even though Rovers are vying with Dumbarton, Ayr United and St Mirren to avoid relegation.
“I’m not interested in what St Mirren fans think, they should worry about their own team because they come here in ten days’ time,” said Lennon. “I was justified in my team selection, I think I was right to do it. Some players were itching to play, some young lads needed the experience. It was important to give them a game before the end of the season, and they’ve all done themselves no harm at all.”
James Keatings scored a double – including a stoppage-time winner from a free-kick – as well as an assist for substitute Grant Holt’s goal on a night when winger Chris Humphrey marked his return following two months out through a combination of injury and off-field problems with an accomplished display.
“I’m really pleased for Keatings,” said Lennon. “Not many can do what he did for the winner. You can tell Humphrey’s not played much lately because he tired in the second half but for an hour he was excellent. He showed real quality to pick out Keats for the first and some of the early balls he got into the box were fantastic.
“I’m glad we won the game, I thought we deserved it. We knew Raith would make a game of it because they are fighting for their lives, but I am very, very pleased with some of the performances.”
Lennon’s senior players will return to training this morning after a few days and the head coach will assess his squad before deciding who will be deployed for Saturday’s trip to Ayr. “I don’t know yet,” when asked what type of team he had in mind for the weekend. “We’ll see how everybody is. Either way we’ll have a strong team out against Ayr.”
Lennon watched from the stand after being hit with a two-match touchline ban on the eve of the match for his part in the flare-up in Hibs’ match with Morton four weeks earlier. “I got a fair hearing, the result is what it is,” he said. “It’s over now, we can draw a line through it and just get on with things.”