Neil Lennon praised the “professional” performance of his players as they cruised to a 6-1 win over Faroes minnows NSI Runavik to effectively claim their place in the second qualifying round of the Europa League.
Swiss striker Florian Kamberi claimed a hat-trick, Lennon’s latest signing Stevie Mallan scored two and youngster Oli Shaw one against a side reduced to ten men after only half an hour when defender Einar Trondargjogv was sent off for a dreadful lunge on Martin Boyle.
Petur Knudsen gave Runavik a rare moment to savour with a deflected free-kick but Lennon said: “It’s a great advantage to take into the second leg. I couldn’t have asked any more from the players. The opposition might not have been up to the quality we are used to but there was a job still to be done and we did it very well.
“We have another week to prepare, another game under our belts and hopefully we can get into the next round and I am confident we can do that.
“You could see the game on Sunday against Blackburn Rovers had stood them in good stead physically. The conditions were difficult, very hot and last night was a lot cooler and they looked much fresher. I am very, very pleased.”
Lennon insisted Kamberi’s hat-trick would “do him the world of good”, saying: “For any striker to score a hat-trick at any level makes it a great start to the season for him. He’s been a bit rusty, as they all have been.”
And he was delighted with the performance of Mallan, who himself was only denied a third by the frame of the goal.
He said: “It was Stevie’s first ninety minutes in six months which will be of great benefit to him. His fitness levels are good, he was quality on the ball and he should be pleased with his performance.”
Scotland midfielder John McGinn was a notable absentee but, revealed Lennon, he’d had his thigh heavily strapped having picked up a “dead leg” playing against Blackburn but admitted the 23-year-old was also not quite 100 per cent amid the ongoing transfer speculation, a second bid of £1.75 million from Celtic having been turned down by Hibs earlier this week.
But Lennon was adamant he was “in control of this” and that if McGinn is fit, as he expects him to be, he will start in the Faroes next Thursday night.