The Easter Road youngsters led twice in the first half through Ryan Porteous and Jamie Gullan, but were ultimately undone by their League Two opponents when substitute Matthew Cooper struck the seventh, and decisive, goal on a drizzly night in Leith.
“I thought the boys were excellent,” said Hibs coach Lee Makel. “We played some really good football going forward. Defensively we’ve got one or two things to work on but these games are about learning.”
The Hibs line-up contained four members of Paul Heckingbottom’s first-team squad. Lithuanian midfielder Vykintas Slivka was the most senior of this quartet as he works his way back towards full match fitness after having his pre-season disrupted by an injury sustained on international duty in June. The 24-year-old was deployed at the base of a three-man central-midfield unit and played the full 90 minutes.
Centre-back Ryan Porteous, another player working his way back following injury, made his first start of any kind since January and wore the captain’s armband, while Fraser Murray and Oli Shaw were also present.
There was a debut for 18-year-old former Celtic and Leeds United goalkeeper Joshua Rae, whose arrival was announced ahead of kick-off, while 17-year-old ex-Hearts defender Dino Leddie, who was yesterday confirmed on a two-year contract, was a substitute.
Hibs required less than three minutes to open the scoring, as skipper Porteous soared to meet Fraser Murray’s perfect free-kick delivery from the right and power home an emphatic header from eight yards out.
Four minutes later, Hibs keeper Joshua Rae did well to get down to his right and claw out a powerful strike by Connor O’Keefe. From the resulting corner, taken by Russell Dingwall, Elgin drew level as Kane Hester rose at the near post to glance a header high beyond Rae and into the net.
The visitors threatened again in the 17th minute when Hester nodded over from close range after being picked out by O’Keefe’s cross from the left.
Hibs almost went ahead on the half hour but Jamie Gullan’s powerfully-struck free-kick from just outside the box was superbly pushed over the bar by Elgin keeper Thomas McHale.
Gullan wasn’t to be denied, however, and he edged the hosts in front in the 32nd minute when his low strike from ten yards out beat McHale at his right-hand post.
But Elgin hit back for a second time in the 35th minute when Shane Sutherland seized on Rae’s punched clearance and drilled a powerful low strike past the keeper from the edge of the box.
The visitors then went ahead in the 38th minute when Hester latched on to a through ball and outmuscled Josh Doig before slotting clinically past the exposed Rae from just outside the six-yard box.
Early in the second half, Rae had to get down well to keep out a low 20-yard strike from Hester. The keeper was in the thick of the action in the 65th minute when he fouled Sutherland in the box but recovered to save the Elgin striker’s penalty.
Murray’s firm strike from outside the box was pushed away by McHale as heavy rain fell. Hibs eventually equalised in 79 minutes when Shaw slotted in a penalty after Stephen Bronsky fouled Porteous in the box.
But Elgin won it in the last minute when Cooper rifled in a low shot from just inside the box, although Hibs felt there was a foul in the build-up.
Hibs Colts: Rae, Block, Yeats, Porteous, Doig, Campbell, Galantes, Slivka, Shaw, F Murray, Gullan. Subs: Woods, Elder, Leddie, Hodge.