Here are three things we learned about Hibs after their penalty shootout defeat by Aberdeen in tonight’s compelling Betfred Cup quarter-final at Easter Road.
Hibs still flexible
Despite a summer of change at Easter Road, Hibs still have a squad that allows Neil Lennon to be flexible with his formation. Having won back-to-back matches against Kilmarnock and Dunde with a 4-3-3, the manager opted to mix it up for the visit of the Dons by reverting to the 3-5-2 he has favoured for long periods of his reign. Crucially, this tactical tweak - which involbed three personnel changes - did no harm to his side as they generally looked secure and had the better of the play for most of the night. Hibs remain a well-rounded side regardless of whether they play with three or four at the back. All they missed on the night was a killer touch in front of goal.
Mallan growing into it
Stevie Mallan is fast becoming the fulcrum of Hibs’ midfield. While his goal-scoring prowess has been clear since he arrived at Hibs, he now looks able to dictate the pace of games. Aided significantly by having the impressive Mark Milligan alongside him, Mallan played a crucial role in Hibs having the better of the match, pinging clever passes all over the pitch, delivering dangerous set-pieces and also doing the dirty side of the game well when required. His missed penalty shouldn’t detract from the fact he was arguably Hibs’ top man on the night.
Hibs and Aberdeen still very evenly matched
After being part of a compelling three-way battle (alongside Rangers) for second place in the Premiership last season, it looks like Hibs and Aberdeen - despite several key changes at both clubs over the summer - are still very evenly matched. This was the second draw between the sides at Easter Road this season and although Hibs (understandably, given they have had home advantage) have had marginally the better of the two games in terms of general play, Aberdeen have done well to hold them in both games. It’s hard to predict which of these two sides will finish higher in the league this season.