It’s been a while coming, but Stevie Mallan is just delighted to have taken his goals tally into double figures, so ending a 12-game drought.
And it mattered little to the Hibs midfielder that his tenth goal came from the penalty spot rather than being, like his previous nine, a spectacular strike from outside the 18-yard box.
Mallan stepped up after Flo Kamberi had an earlier attempt from 12 yards saved by Thomas McHale. But Mallan sent the Elgin City goalkeeper the wrong way as he drilled home a third first-half goal in what turned out to be a comfortable 4-0 win to take Hibs into the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup.
Having seen that early season goal rush dry up – he hadn’t scored since netting a double against Hamilton at the beginning of October – Mallan has his sights set on adding plenty more to his total.
Now joint top scorer with Swiss striker Kamberi, the 22-year-old said: “Obviously I wish I had scored a couple more before now but it’s been one of those periods you go through as a player and a team.
“It was good having come to the club in the summer to have scored all those goals early on but I’ve been wanting to get to double figures and kick on again.
“The penalty was a bit different to my other goals for the club in that it was my first from inside the box but now the aim is to score 15, then 20.
“The manager has always wanted me to get forward and has encouraged me to do what I do so hopefully I’ll start scoring more again – and put in better performances.”
Mallan revealed there was never any question of him not taking over spot-kick duties after Kamberi had seen a second successive penalty saved, making sure he grabbed the ball after his team-mate had been tripped by Elgin’s Brian Cameron before anyone else could get their hands on it.
He said: “Flo missed so I was next in line. Paul Hanlon had run up from the back but I got the ball first and thankfully put it away. I’d scored a couple of penalties for St Mirren so I’d like to think I’m now on them the next time we get one.”
The visit of Elgin gave Hibs fans their first glimpse of Ryan Gauld, signed on loan from Sporting Lisbon, while Stephane Omeonga, who had arrived in Edinburgh to put the finishing touches to his move from Italian outfit Genoa, watched on from the stand, signs, insisted Mallan, of just how far and wide the Capital club’s scouting system operates.
Gauld made an immediate impact, the former Dundee United midfielder supplying a defence-splitting pass for Kamberi to round McHale and slide the ball home from a tight angle before Daryl Horgan, Mallan and Horgan again completed a comfortable win for the Premiership club.
Mallan said: “We saw how good a player Ryan is in training last week, he’s someone who likes to take the ball and people can play off him. He’ll be feeding the midfielders and linking with Flo. He always seems to have the next pass already in his head, always has that yard of space around him, always in the hole looking for the ball.
“The manager always wants our passes, whether in defence or midfield to be going forward and that through-ball from Ryan to Flo is what he’ll be wanting to see.”
Gauld shot to prominence at Tannadice, finding himself the subject of a £3 million move to Portugal at the age of just 18 but was then farmed out on various loan spells as he was unable to command a place in Sporting’s side.
However, insisted Mallan, there’s no doubting his new team-mate’s ability.
He said: “Ryan had all that hype at the start of his career when he burst on to the scene at United. I’m not to sure what has happened since. But we can only be pleased that a player of his calibre wanted to come here.
“I think Ryan just wants to play football again at a high level and that’s what he’ll get at Hibs. We want to play attacking football and he is the type that will help us massively in that regard, I think we saw that right away on Saturday.
“Hopefully I can strike up a good partnership with him that can benefit the team.”
Like others at Easter Road, Mallan confessed to knowing little about Omeonga but pointed to the fact that as a Belgian Under-21 internationalist with Serie A experience, the midfielder’s credentials are pretty good.
He said: “If Stephane comes in and helps us, then great. The more quality players we have at the club the better.
“But I think Ryan coming from Portugal and Stephane arriving from Italy just shows how determined the club are to get the best possible players to Easter Road.
“This time last year Flo and Jamie Maclaren came in, from Switzerland and Germany, two players most Hibs fans had probably never heard of at that time, and they did really well.
“Now it’s Ryan and Stephane from elsewhere in Europe while Mark Milligan came in earlier in the season from Australia.
“It just goes to show the attraction of Hibs that we are able to bring in players not only from all over Europe, but the world.”
The net may have been cast far and wide but it is a player much closer to home the Hibs support are now hoping will become the next arrival in this transfer window – midfielder Scott Allan.
The 27-year-old has already agreed to return to Easter Road for a third time, signing a pre-contract deal to join on a three-year contract in the summer when his current agreement with Celtic comes to an end.
But negotiations are already underway, which Lennon hopes will see Allan back in Edinburgh before the end of the month, the Hibs head coach believing he wants to get back playing sooner rather than later after finding himself frozen out at Celtic Park.
And, again, insisted Mallan, it would further strengthen the squad as they seek to haul themselves back into the top six of the Ladbrokes Premiership following a disappointing first half of the season which saw them slip from second to eighth on the back of a run of just two wins in 13 matches.
He said: “It would be good if we could get Scott in this month, he’d bring even more competition for places which is good for any club.
“Performances rise when people are having to fight for their jersey and find it’s not easy to get into the team, that’s what we need.
“If Scott comes in it would be another top quality player already well known and loved by the supporters after what he’s done here previously and that can only help us going forward.