Steve Kean reaction as Hibs B bow out of SPFL Trust Trophy and Paul Hanlon gets minutes under his belt

Hibs club captain Paul Hanlon could be in contention to make a first-team return away to Livingston this weekend after playing 45 minutes for the B team.

The 32-year-old has made another big step towards regaining full fitness after knee surgery in the summer by playing the first half of the B team’s SPFL Trust Trophy tie against Brechin City.

The Highland League side went through 4-1 on penalties after a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes at New Victoria Park in Newtongrange. Ethan Laidlaw scored a late equaliser for Hibs, who trailed after a misjudgment by Jack Brydon gifted Jonathan Northcott the opening goal in the 73rd minute .

Hanlon played the first half alongside Kyle McClelland at centre-back, but both were replaced at half time so they can train with the first team on Thursday and put themselves in contention to feature in Saturday’s cinch Premiership trip to Livingston.

Paul Hanlon in action for Hibs B against Brechin City in the SPFL Trust Trophy. Picture: Phil Johnson

Academy manager Steve Kean explained: “He was always down to play 45 – and so was Kyle – so that they can train and prepare for the first-team game this weekend. That was always the plan.

“He played 75 minutes last week when we played Queen’s Park in a friendly match. He’s played 45 minutes now – so has Kyle – and I think that will take them a little bit closer to match fitness if they are required to play at the weekend.”

Brechin edged the first half, Grady McGrath smashing the crossbar in the best of their two chances and Hibs failing to create anything of note.

The visitors took the lead when Brydon, Hanlon’s replacement at the back, allowed a long ball to bounce over his head, enabling Northcott to nip in and lob stranded Hibs keeper Murray Johnson.

Hibs upped the tempo and pressed forward in response and were rewarded by Laidlaw’s well-taken equaliser. Surging onto Josh O’Connor’s pass he showed strength to hold off two defenders before rounding the Brechin keeper to side-foot home from an acute angle.

In the shootout Josh O’Connor and Robbie Hamilton missed Hibs’ first two spot kicks before Laidlaw scored, but Brechin netted their first four to go through.

“It’s disappointing to be out of the competition, but I think they were probably better than us first half,” added Kean. “I thought they showed better intensity and more quality than us the final third. We weren’t great in the final third in the first half.

“I felt, certainly in the last 20 minutes, we were pushing when we changed it to a 4-3-3. We had more penetration, more efforts. We pinned them back and I felt we were well worthy of getting back in the game.

“If we analyse the goal against, it is a poor one to lose. Then when we get to penalty shootouts it is heads or tails. We don’t give any of the young boys any stick for stepping up and taking a penalty.

“Overall, the thing we’ll take from it is that we need to improve our last part of the game. Out final third quality needs to be better.

“We’ve got a lot of young players who will learn from that, playing against men in a proper, competitive game.”

Hibs B (4-2-3-1): M Johnson; Blaney, McClelland (Megwa 45), Hanlon (Brydon 45), O MacIntyre (E Johnson 61); J MacIntyre, Tait (Aiken 61); Hamilton, Delferriere, Laidlaw; O’Connor. Subs not used: Carter, McCulloch, Hastie, Wright, Smith.