Jack Ross dismisses Hibs criticism from Rijeka - 'it can’t be true'
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The respective managers had their say ahead of the first leg of their Europa Conference League third round qualifier, at Easter Road last week, when Goran Tomic irritated his counterpart by categorising the Leithers as a long-ball team and now the side’s Montenegrin fullback has added fuel to the fire.
"Against the Scots, the most important thing is to keep the ball on the ground because then they don't have the right answer to us... whenever we put the ball down and passed it, they had no idea how to respond.”
But, Ross quickly dismissed it as a falsehood.
“I said prior to the first leg that there was an element of the stereotypical view of Scottish football [in their rivals’ assessments] that can be uneducated at times.
But if it’s being repeated then it can’t be true because anyone who watched the first leg would know the manner in which we played and the style in which we played. And if anyone has watched our opening two league games of the season that would reinforce that again.
“But I don’t really concern myself with it too much. Our players believe we are a good side. I don’t think they pay too much attention to [Rijeka’s comments] but they are determined to win the game.”
After a first head to head in which Hibs dominated play and should have been lugging a comfortable scoreline advantage into the second leg, instead of a 1-1 draw, there is the possibility that Hibs’ hosts are indulging in some intentionally-inflammatory trash talk, in a bid to unsettle Ross’ team.
But the Easter Road gaffer insists the Croatian side are not the only ones feeling confident in their ability to book their spot in the play-offs and move to within touching distance of a group place and guaranteed European action until at least December.
“They did that before the home game as well,” said Ross. “I think the focus has always been about how we perform, we went into the first game with that clear headedness about what we wanted to do as a team and I think we produced a performance as a team that reflected that. It’s been the same for Thursday in preparation and we’re looking forward to playing away from home in Europe in front of a crowd because in the previous round [against Santa Coloma] there was nobody really there.
“I’ve got a squad of players that are well used to playing in front of big crowds and big stadia and in International games so I think they’ll relish that.”
But, having let their guard slip momentarily in Leith, Ross has welcomed the fact that Hibs have travelled to Croatia unburdened by the baggage of away goals and anticipating an exciting game.
“If we look at this game, it would have been more troublesome coming here with the away goal. But the first leg almost becomes redundant in terms of the way this game is played. I think it’s a positive rule change. It allows the second leg to be more open and attractive.”