It all ended pretty much as expected, but Chris Humphrey has revealed Hibs left nothing to chance as they prepared to begin their defence of the Scottish Cup.
A tie against East Super League champions Bonnyrigg Rose was, boss Neil Lennon declared, one fraught with danger for Hibs, one which had the potential to leave him and his players red faced and, arguably, capable of wiping out all those ecstatic memories that day in May evoked. With that in mind Lennon was meticulous in his approach to the match, as thorough as he would be for any Championship game with promotion the over-riding priority.
“We worked on them all week,” disclosed Humphrey after the 8-1 thumping of their Junior opponents. “They’d beaten Dumbarton in the previous round and knew it would be a difficult game.
“We watched clips of them and could see they had threats, the big lad (Keiran McGachie) up front, good in the air, can get the ball down and is quick. You cannot go into a game thinking you are just going to win.
“Games like this one are the hardest but we looked at it like any other match and the work we did during the week obviously paid off.
“The gaffer isn’t going to take anyone lightly no matter who they are. He prepares the same, looks at the opposition, comes up with a game plan and we go out and try to play to it.”
Lennon’s determination not to be on the wrong end of embarrassing headlines was evident even although he made six changes to the side which defeated Dumbarton seven days earlier, the strength in depth of his squad all too evident with the likes of Marvin Bartley, Fraser Fyvie, Martin Boyle, and Brian Graham on the bench while skipper David Gray sat this one out through suspension as did the injured Paul Hanlon.
But newcomer Humphrey has already discovered the demands his new manager places on his players, saying: “I’ve only worked with him for two weeks, but he wants the best – that’s his mentality.”
However, Humphrey has also detected a real desire among his team-mates to hold on to a trophy Hibs hadn’t won for 114 years. He said: “Obviously I wasn’t here when they won it, but you can see what it means to everyone involved.
“There’s a buzz in the dressing room and the gaffer spoke to us the day before the game about being the holders and wanting to keep it. We don’t want to give it away lightly, we’ll be giving it our all.”
Combining that with a title chase will, Humphrey admitted, be difficult with much depending on the luck of the draw although Lennon and his players will take confidence from the fact that on the way to their historic triumph they defeated Capital rivals Hearts, the then cup holders Inverness Caley and Dundee United, all Premiership clubs.
The former Motherwell and Preston winger said: “Nothing is ever easy, whoever we play is not going to let us go out there and win. Every game will be difficult, all we can do is what we did in this game, play every game the best we can and then take it from there.”
If a comfortable win against Bonnyrigg was anticipated, Humphrey insisted the final 8-1 scoreline was a signal of Hibs’ intent, the team, apart from a sloppy spell at the end of the first half, were ruthless.
Goals from Andrew Shinnie – a speculative shot which should have been stopped by Rose goalkeeper Michael Andrews – a wonderful curling effort from James Keatings and Humphrey himself, sliding the ball home when Andrews could only push Lewis Stevenson’s shot into his path, had the tie all but over within 24 minutes.
Referee Alan Muir’s decision to award a penalty as McGachie took a tumble with Jordon Forster in close proximity but, as television replays showed, not close enough to make contact, threw Bonnyrigg a lifeline with Dean Hoskins converting from the spot.
It was a moment for the 5000 Rose fans to savour and one which boss Robbie Horn felt could have been repeated had Muir pointed to the spot as the ball struck Grant Holt’s hand before Wayne McIntosh powered a header over when he should at least have hit the target.
But after a few well chosen words from Lennon at half-time, Hibs highlighted the gulf between the sides with five more goals.
Former Hearts kid Jason Cummings met Stevenson’s cross to score for the fourth game running at Tynecastle – his goal at this venue last season sparking the comeback from 2-0 down with only ten minutes remaining.
In doing so he ended any hope Bonnyrigg might have held before Stevenson got on the end of Holt’s low cross to open the floodgates.
Andrews could only parry Holt’s powerful shot allowing Cummings a tap-in for his 14th goal of the season; Keatings cleverly beat the goalkeeper to claim his second of the game and Jordon Forster rounded off the afternoon, nodding home Keatings’ free-kick, the big defender’s first in two-and-a-half years.
Humphrey, on the end of a “welcome to Junior football” tackle from Hoskins which led to that eighth goal, said: “I enjoyed the game. I got a lot of the ball and it was brilliant to get my first goal for the club.”
Lennon said: “I was very pleased with the way we approached the game but we got a bit sloppy before half-time so we had a few words and got the response we were looking for. We were excellent in the second half, I can’t remember my goalkeeper having a save to make in that period.
“The last time I was here [Tynecastle] my Celtic team got seven so we bettered that.”