Stevie Mallan: Hibs won't take foot off the gas in Faroes
Hibs may appear to be 'home and hosed' as far as making the second qualifying round of the Europa League is concerned, that resounding 6-1 win over NSi Runavik making Thursday's return leg little more than a formality.
But, as he prepared to fly to the Faroe Islands with his team-mates tonight, Stevie Mallan insisted the foot will remain flat to the floor, the players determined to use what should be no more than a “dead rubber” to help ready themselves for Greek outfit Asteras Tripolis who lie in wait.
Signed only a few days before Runavik arrived in Edinburgh after a move to Yorkshire club Barnsley turned sour, Mallan played his part in what turned into a rout, the former St Mirren midfielder scoring twice and only prevented from joining striker Florian Kamberi in celebrating a hat-trick by goalkeeper Tordur Thomsen’s crossbar.
That stroke of bad luck, however, was probably balanced by the good fortune Mallan had enjoyed in claiming his first goal, a trundler which Thomsen allowed to trickle through his fingers before the 22-year-old struck a trademark free-kick to round off the scoring.
“You take every goal as it comes,” he said. “There was a bit of luck with the first one, but all you can do is hit the target. The manager said he wanted the goalkeeper tested early on and by winning 6-1 we can probably say that.
“The second is something I have always worked on so to score with my first free-kick when the pressure is on in respect that people are expecting it was great. I was delighted to get the two as I want to add more goals to my game, that’s the one thing the gaffer said to me when I signed, that he wanted more goals.
“So to get two under my belt early on is pretty good, but it’s about keeping standards high throughout the season.
“The boys put in a very good performance against a team that no-one had a clue about.
“You can always nit-pick and say we could have scored a few more but we can’t grumble getting six at home against a team that might have come out and given us a scare. To dominate and enjoy such a win puts us in good stead for Thursday night.
“The one thing we did want, though, was a clean sheet although we really can’t complain; their goal [scored by Petur Knudsen] took a big deflection off the wall and wrong-footed Adam Bogdan.
“Going away from home, especially in Europe, is a hard task but we have put ourselves in a good position to get through to the next round.”
The task was undoubtedly made that little bit easier when Runavik defender Einar Tonrdargogv, who had given away a third-minute penalty, was sent off for a wild lunge on Martin Boyle although, by that stage, the Edinburgh side were already three up.
Boyle’s came in for some rough treatment as the part-timers struggled to cope with his pace but, insisted Mallan, Neil Lennon’s players deserved credit for keeping their cool.
He said: “It’s when the opposition get a bit ‘leggy’, that the challenges come in so you have to be able to handle yourself and not do anything silly, getting booked or sent off as that can come into play further along the line. But I thought the boys dealt with it perfectly.”
Mallan admitted there were still a few signs of early-season rustiness, not least from himself as he played his first full 90 minutes in six months but the first leg added to another week on the training ground will have sharpened things up.
He said: “I definitely know my match sharpness has to come back but it’s been a long time having not played a full game. I’ll regain that working with the boys because the training is at a very high tempo, very enjoyable.
“It also takes a wee while to bed in when you go to a new team because you are learning about your new team-mates. Some like to come to feet, some like to spin in behind.
“After a couple of weeks you begin to understand their games. I saw a couple of passes I made that never came off but I’ll be up to speed soon.”
Mallan is looking forward to playing with Kamberi, the Swiss hitman picking up where he left off from last season’s loan spell which brought nine goals in 14 games and earned him a three-year contract with Hibs. Joking that he might have had a bit of a fight with Kamberi for the match ball had that shot not hit the bar, Mallan said: “When you get two, it’s always at the back of your mind that you might get a hat-trick but I was delighted to see the big man do it.
“To see him up and running and getting three in the first game shows the talent he has and hopefully he can replicate that throughout the season.”
Mallan admitted Hibs will be looking for the same dominant performance in Toftir, saying: “It’s about what we do, we know more about Runavik now and I am sure the gaffer will be looking for the same again.”