Neil Lennon: The best is yet to come from this Hibs team
Hibs boss Neil Lennon says the best has yet to come from his team after watching them shake off the disappointment of losing to Premiership new boys Livingston by beating Kilmarnock.
Lennon admitted he had been worried about the outcome of the game before kick-off, but watched as his players raced into a two-goal lead thanks to a terrific Stevie Mallan free-kick – his seventh goal of the season – and a bullet header from skipper David Gray only for Killie to strike back through Eamonn Brophy and Greg Stewart before the interval.
Hibs eventually ran out 3-2 winners thanks to a controversial penalty converted by Flo Kamberi while Kilmarnock were adamant they should have had a spot-kick of their own in the dying seconds, but Lennon was just happy to enjoy the breaks which came Hibs’ way.
He said: “It was a brilliant win for us. I was concerned about the game going into it because Kilmarnock had a great win at Aberdeen and not many teams do that – and they are a good team.
“It was a great game, a high-quality football match and the first four goals were outstanding. I am disappointed, we were very passive with the two goals. We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit but in the second half I thought we had good control and had some chances.
“It was just magnificent and I thought Stevie’s all-round quality was good, a real desire to get the ball back and keep things ticking over. He can be delighted with his contribution but that skill in itself is tremendous and that’s seven goals and it’s a great return already.
“I’ve not seen that technical level in the first half bettered, I just thought it was a really good game, two accomplished teams.”
Lennon, though, believes it’s very much a case of “work in progress” as his new-look squad beds in while a lengthy injury list is easing, Swiss striker Kamberi having returned from a knee injury while his fellow frontman Jamie Maclaren, who won that decisive penalty, is still seeking peak match fitness following his return to the club.
Hibs fans also got their first sight of Maclaren’s Australian team-mate Mark Milligan, the veteran midfielder replacing Steven Whittaker, who himself was lauded by Lennon for his performance in the unfamiliar role as anchorman in the middle of the park, for the final 18 minutes.
Lennon said: “I think the squad is a work in progress with the turnover of players but it was important to win and keep the momentum going. I think we’re still little bit passive defensively at times but we’re good going forward.
“I just want to get Jamie up to speed so I can start him. We have him, Milligan and Agyepong, who I thought did really well. I need to be really pleased with what I am seeing now.
“Marvin Bartley and Darren McGregor should be back soon. All of a sudden the squad is starting to look a bit stronger again, which is great.”