Hibs star backs Marc McNulty to score his next penalty
Paul Hanlon has backed Marc McNulty to tuck away his next penalty after watching the striker miss from the spot against city rivals Hearts.
A foul by Hearts hitman Uche Ikpeazu on Hanlon had presented McNulty – who could boast three penalties among the seven goals he had scored since arriving at Hibs on loan from Reading – with the chance to put Paul Heckingbottom’s side ahead.
But he crashed his shot from 12 yards against the outside of goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal’s right-hand post. And although Hibs did get in front when Hearts skipper Christophe Berra turned a Daryl Horgan cross into his own net, Ikpeazu had the last laugh as he claimed a late equaliser before forcing Ofir Marciano into a spectacular leap to prevent his overhead kick claiming all three points for the Jambos.
“Sparky said that as he stepped up the goalkeeper looked really big in the goal,” revealed Hanlon, “So he thought he’d whip it away from him but he got too much on it.
“He apologised afterwards but he didn’t have to do that. He was brave enough to step up and he’s been clinical every time we have got a penalty. Marc will move on and if we get a penalty I am sure he will take it and put it in the net.”
The draw with Hearts left Hibs four points behind Kilmarnock in the race for a possible place in next season’s Europa League with only three matches remaining but, insisted Hanlon, no-one at Easter Road is giving up hope on catching Kilmarnock – especially with a game in Ayrshire to come.
He said: “Look back to where we were a few months ago and to where we are now. We’ve put ourselves in a good position, we’ve excited the fans who are back in there cheeering us on and we still have a chance to do something really special in terms of Europe.
“We’ll go to Ibrox on Sunday and try to get something out of that. We won’t fear them, and then we go to Kilmarnock where I think we have to win although it is a difficult place to go. It’s a situation we’d gladly have taken not so long ago. I’d have bitten your hand off then to have this scenario.”
Hibs’ development squad are to round off their season with three friendlies, starting with Stirling Albion at Forthbank tonight, kick-off 7.15 pm.
The next two games will take place at the club’s East Mains training centre against Middlesbrough Under-23s on Tuesday, May 7, and Huddersfield Town’s Under-20s seven days later. Both games will kick-off at 2pm with entry by donation to Hibs Youth Academy.
The squad’s competitive matches for the season are over but they still top the SPFL Reserve League on goal difference from Celtic and Rangers but need both Glasgow sides to lose their final games, against St Johnstone and Falkirk.