Three points put a smile on John McGinn’s face, but the Hibs midfielder was less than happy with his home debut, telling the Easter Road support: “I can do much better.”
While critical of his own performance, the 20-year-old admitted simply beating Morton overshadowed everything else, Alan Stubbs’ players having kicked off the season with a bitterly disappointing defeat at Dumbarton.
New arrival McGinn was one of the few to gain pass marks that day, even although he’d enjoyed just 30 second half minutes as a substitute, head coach Stubbs adamant he’d given the travelling fans a glimpse of what they could expect from the former St Mirren kid.
However, in his own eyes at least, McGinn failed to meet the standard he expects of himself, even if Stubbs was once again pleased enough with his contribution.
“I was really disappointed with how I played,” revealed McGinn. “I was so keen to show fans what I could do in my first game at home and I feel I didn’t do that. I’d hoped to perform as I had at Dumbarton – you want to impress the supporters right away. The gaffer was pleased with me. I worked hard, but I have standards I want to meet and I felt I didn’t do that.”
Having said that, McGinn accepted there were, perhaps, mitigating factors, Stubbs fielding a new-look midfield in the wake of Scott Allan’s departure to Celtic with fellow new boy Dan Carmichael pulling on a green-and-white shirt for the first time, Martin Boyle starting for the first time since the beginning of May following knee surgery and Marvin Bartley making only his third appearance.
The Scotland Under-21 international said: “It does take a while for things to settle down, but hopefully that won’t take too long. It’s about getting that understanding among the boys and I felt that as the game went on there were signs we were beginning to gel a bit.”
Hibs fans also got a first look at on-loan Celtic midfielder Liam Henderson, the 19-year-old arriving in the Capital as part of the deal which took Allan to Celtic and pitched straight into the action, playing the final 20 minutes in place of Carmichael who, naturally, was beginning to tire.
And McGinn believes the supporters saw enough of Henderson to realise Hibs have signed a quality player, one who is going to add further competition in a squad which still awaits the return after injury of Jordon Forster, James Keatings and Farid El Alagui.
Asked if everyone was just thankful the Allan saga was finally over, Hibs having stood their ground in refusing to sell to fellow Championship title contenders Rangers but granting the player’s transfer request by agreeing a “cash plus player” deal with their Old Firm rivals, McGinn said: “I don’t think it really affected the players in our dressingoom – we only worry about those that are in it.
“Liam has come in and he is a tremendous young player and I’m looking forward to playing with him. I think he’ll prove to be a tremendous bit of business for the club. I don’t know him too well, although I trained once with him while away with Scotland.
“But from what I have seen of him watching games on television, I think he will be a great addition to our squad. He’s technically very good, he’s got a good brain and I am sure he’s a player the Hibs fans will enjoy watching.
“There’s already a lot of competition for places when you look at our bench against Morton and see the likes of Sam Stanton, Jason Cummings and Alex Harris all sitting there as well as Liam and young Scott Martin and once we start getting boys back from injury there’s going to be great strength in depth.”
Hibs win over Championship newcomers Morton was narrow, a strike from Cummings enough to clinch the points, the 20-year-old revealing afterwards he was simply fulfilling a promise he’d made to his fellow substitutes before stroking home captain David Gray’s cross with his first touch of the ball after coming on.
McGinn said: “That was typical Jason, but he’s a top player and you knew he’d be a threat if he came on. It didn’t take him long to prove that – hopefully he can produce that on a weekly basis.
“Getting the three points was the most important thing. That’s what the manager had told us before the game. Morton came, sat it and caused us problems. It took us a while to break them down, but we got the goal and it didn’t matter how it came. We’d have preferred to have done it in style, but all that mattered was the win.
“It might have been a bit easier. Liam Fontaine hit the post in the first half and Dave [Gray] had one taken off the line. And we also had a couple of shouts for penalties when Martin and Marvin were pulled down. I’m a bit biased and think they were both penalties, but it’s the referee’s decision that counts and unfortunately for us he didn’t see either incident that way.”
McGinn himself might have scored, Morton goalkeeper Derek Gaston tipping over a ferocious shot from the midfielder, but while he’d have loved to have marked his first game at Easter Road with a goal, McGinn now hopes that moment is merely delayed to this Sunday’s clash with Rangers at Ibrox.
He said: “It’s a big game and one to look forward to. These are the matches you want to play in and it’s an important one for us. Hopefully we can perform the way we know we can.”