Neil Lennon’s Hibernian strolled to victory yesterday evening with a convincing 4-0 win against Championship side Dunfermline.
It was the Pars who had the first opportunity of the game early on when David Hopkirk received the ball at the edge of the area after Nicky Clark laid the ball back to the winger. His right-footed effort flew just wide of Ofir Marciano’s right-hand post after a bright start by the home side.
The away side grew into the match and forced Dunfermline’s defence to think for the first time when Danny Swanson floated a delivery into the box which Callum Morris had to deal with. The resultant corner taken by Hibs’ trialist, Jermaine Pennant, was overhit and that allowed the Pars to counter. Lewis Martin received the ball on the left hand side and swung in a cross which Hopkirk met with his head but it flew harmlessly wide of target.
Youngster Callum Crane broke down the left hand side in the 22nd minute. After getting in behind Ryan Williamson, the cut-back found the on-rushing Danny Swanson who slotted the ball home with aplomb.
The Pars looked for a way back into the friendly and had a few half chances with Nicky Clark, Jean-Yves M’Voto and Hopkirl all missing further opportunities before the home side eventually did find the back of Marciano’s net – only for referee Kevin Clancy to rule it out. Lee Ashcroft had slotted the ball home after the Israeli keeper had dropped a Higginbotham set-piece delivery, but the man in the middle deemed the goalkeeper had been fouled in the build-up and the goal was chalked off.
On the stroke of half-time, an impressive Splaine picked up a yellow card after a cynical challenge at the edge of his own area. Jermaine Pennant stood up to take the free kick and rattled the post with a fantastic 25-yard curling effort which had Pars keeper Sean Murdoch beaten all ends up.
The Hibees made a flurry of changes at half-time with the majority of the substitutes getting the full second half. The Pars also made a substitution at half-time, with Michael Paton rerplacing the youthfulness of Splaine before Hopkirk went off injured less than ten minutes into the second period, being replaced by Joe Cardle.
It was just five minutes later that Hibs doubled their lead. Scotland cap John McGinn broke down the left hand side before swinging in a teasing delivery. The Dunfermline defence couldn’t deal with the cross and it was trialist Jermaine Pennant who slotted the ball past the helpless Murdoch. This was the final act of the former Arsenal and Liverpool man as he was immediately replaced by Martin Boyle.
It was the speedy-sub himself that scored Hibs’ third of the evening. The winger received the ball from McGinn before driving into the area before finishing from a tight angle. It was a dominant display from the Premiership side but the scoring was to continue.
With just under 15 minutes to go, youngster Oliver Shaw – who was on loan at Stenhousemuir last season – completed the scoring with a header after McGinn assisted again.
Shaw wasn’t the only youngster to impress however. Half-Time sub Fraser Murray looked lively from the left-hand side and saw a right-footed effort fly just over Sean Murdoch’s bar while also having crosses and shots blocked in a lively performance by the youngster.
The last action of the night saw Hibs’ replacement goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw make two saves to see the visitors leave East End Park with a clean sheet. Substitutes Callum Smith and Scott Lochhead combined with the latter getting a shot away which was cleared off the line by a diving Laidlaw. Lochhead was involved again minutes later as he played a one-two with Dunfermline’s Trialist number 16 but the forward couldn’t slot the ball past the former Raith Rovers keeper.
Overall, both sides will have taken positives out of tonight’s match Hibs got all players who travelled valuable game-time with a positive result to boot, while, the Pars gaffer will have learnt lessons from his sides experimental formation and small squad – which was complimented by youth players and trialists.
Neil Lennon, speaking after the match, said:
“It was a great performance considering it was their first run out since the 6th of May. We made a lot of changes at half-time; that was the plan, to give everyone a run-out. We looked in good condition, we looked sharp. I was very pleased with the overall performance.”
Speaking about trialist, Jermaine Pennant, Lennon said:
“He has got good ability and he has trained very well since he has came in. I wanted to have a look at him in action tonight and he may feature at some stage on Sunday and possibly even next Tuesday again. I want to have a good look at him over 3 or 4 games before we make a decision on it. People talk about his age – he is 34 and he still has a good two or three years left in him. He has had a great career and he is a good personality. It is early days in terms of making any sort of decision on him, but, I am very pleased with him so far.”
Lennon also confirmed “3 or 4” players are looking to be brought in before the summer window shuts.
“It is just a part of squad building – everybody wants things done now, but, that is easier said than done. We have got until August the 31st before we need to have finalised the squad, so, we have plenty of time. I am very pleased with the players that we have brought in as well as the quality that we have signed so far as that has been very high. If we add them on to the players we already had, it augers well. We have brought [Danny] Swanson, [Efe] Ambrose, [Ofir] Marciano and Simon Murray in so far and they are all very good players. We have got decent pace in the team, as well. With the loss of Jason [Cummings], we are looking to strengthen in forward areas and that is something we are trying to do.”
Lennon concluded by speaking about the match on Sunday at Easter Road between Hibs and Sunderland, which is Lewis Stevenson’s Testimonial.
“It is thoroughly merited. It is not often, in the modern game, that you get a player who gives one club such longevity. He has had some ups and downs but he is a great club man, who is adored by the fans and I am hopeful he will get a really good turnout. In regards to the game, it’ll be a big step up in class from tonight. They were an English Premiership side last year; their physicality, athletisicism and overall quality will be a higher level than what we have faced this evening, so, it will be an excellent test and one we are looking forward to.”
1. Sean Murdoch
2. Ryan Williamson
5. Callum Morris (Captain)
4. Jean-Yves M’Voto
6. Lee Ashcroft (Trialist 63′)
3. Lewis Martin (Conner Duthie 81′)
8. Nat Wedderburn (Scott Lochhead 84′)
13. Aaron Splaine (Michael Paton HT)
7. Kallum Hiigginbotham (Trialist 69′)
10. Nicky Clark (Callum Smith 78′)
12. David Hopkirk (Joe Cardle 53′)
20. Cammy Gill (GK)
11. Joe Cardle
15. Michael Paton
18. Conner Duthie
19. Scott Lochhead
21. Brandon Luke
22. Stuart Morrison
23. Callum Smith
24. Paul Allan
1. Ofir Marciano (Ross Laidlaw 45′)
2. David Gray (Captain)
4. Ryan Porteous
5. Liam Fontaine (Darren McGregor 45′)
6. Marvin Bartley (Lewis Stevenson 45′)
8. Trialist (Martin Boyle 59′)
10. Dylan McGeouch (John McGinn 45′)
11. Danny Swanson (Scott Martin 45′)
29. Brian Graham (Fraser Murray 45′)
30. Callum Crane (Simon Murray 45′)
32. Oliver Shaw
21. Ross Laidlaw (GK)
7. John McGinn
15. Simon Murray
16. Lewis Stevenson
17. Martin Boyle
24. Darren McGregor
26. Scott Martin
33. Fraser Murray