Neil Lennon: You'll see true Hibs against Asteras Tripolis
Hibs boss Neil Lennon promised fans they will see a much-improved performance in next week's Europa League second qualifying round against Greek outfit Asteras Tripolis after watching his players struggle to defeat NSI Runavik.
Already 6-1 up from the first leg in Edinburgh, the Easter Road side were expected to be equally ruthless against the minnows from the Faroe Islands but, instead, found themselves two goals down in just five minutes.
Hibs eventually recovered to win 6-4, the first time they’ve ever managed to score more than four away from home in Europe, but Lennon, who watched the match from the stand in the cliff-top Svangaskard Stadium in Toftir, insisted he was totally relaxed about what he had seen.
He said: “It was like a pre-season game and really that is what it was for us. It was an experimental team, some of them needed game time. That’s not going to be anywhere near the level of performance next week.
“I am all right about it. We have a new goalkeeper in, an experimental back three. But we were sloppy to start with, scored six goals – that I have to be happy with. It’s about getting the boys up to speed for next week.”
Asked if he’d suffered a shock as he saw Efe Ambrose slice a cross into his own net before Runavik skipper Klaemint Olsen scored the first of his hat-trick, Lennon said: “I wanted them to be professional and they were anything but for the first five or ten minutes but after that we were fine.
“We will have Darren McGregor, Paul Hanlon and Martin Boyle back and we will get the benefit of the game. If they had been a better class of opposition I would probably have picked a far stronger team but I needed players to get up to speed. That’s only our fourth game.
“It was bizarre. We were sloppy at the back but going forward we were decent. It’s no real litmus test of what we are going to get next week. We just had to get the game out of the way. You could tell some of the players were a bit rusty and needed it.
“I cannot be over-critical. We negotiated the tie all right and are in the next round. We won’t play as poorly as that or as sloppy as that against better opposition.”
Celtic target John McGinn made his first competitive appearance of the season and marked the occasion by scoring Hibs’ first goal, and Lennon insisted he was happy with the Scotland midfielder’s performance. He said: “His fitness levels were good, he passed the ball well. The best thing to do is get out and play and focus on your job. It may change over the next week or so, I don’t know. It will be up to the two clubs or any other club that comes in.
“We have our valuation of the player. We did say we would play him. We played him and we move on.”