BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Hibs star Dylan McGeouch insists the Easter Road outfit are already benefiting from Neil Lennon’s lofty standards after treating Brondby like Barcelona.
The capital club were dynamite in Denmark on Thursday evening, securing a 1-0 win thanks to a scrambled goal from inspirational skipper David Gray.
That wiped out the deficit from the first leg in Edinburgh and sent a fraught contest all the way to penalties, where John McGinn endured the heartbreak of missing the decisive kick in a 5-3 defeat.
Having worked under the Northern Irishman at Celtic and seen his burning desire for unlikely victories against the likes of Barca and Juventus, it comes as no surprise to McGeouch to see Lennon demanding excellence.
“The fact we are disappointed with a 1-0 away win at Brondby, because we haven’t managed to get through, says it all about the standards Neil Lennon sets,” said McGeouch.
“I am used to that after working with the gaffer. I remember going away to massive Champions League matches and his expectations never wavered.
“Even against a Barcelona or Juventus, he was always looking for the same standard of performance and telling the boys to target a win. That is what he has brought to Hibs already.
“We will need to rise to those standards over the course of the season. There is no point playing this well in the Europa League then slipping up in the league – and that is not something which will be acceptable to the gaffer either.
“It’s massively disappointing to go out in the end but we can take an awful lot from this game. I don’t think anyone gave us any chance of going to Denmark and winning so we can be really proud of that.”
McGeouch was a forlorn figure at full-time, while evidently beaming with pride – a bittersweet combination to contend with as he addressed the assembled press.
He was particularly keen to emphasise how heartened Hibs should be regarding the campaign to come.
After arguably being the better side against the 10-time champions of Denmark over the two legs, dominating the Scottish Championship should be an achievable goal as they seek to finally escape the second tier.
“It’s massively disappointing to go out in the end but we can take an awful lot from this game,” he continued. “I don’t think anyone gave us any chance of going to Denmark and winning so we can be really proud of that.
“We are still in pre-season, getting up to pace, so to perform so well away from home against a really good European side is huge for us. We’ve got to keep our heads up and we’ll hopefully go into the start of the season absolutely flying.
“With the new manager coming in, the main objective is to go up. From the start of the season, that is the aim. With that in mind, we’ll take so much – the confidence, fitness and a win over 90 minutes – going into that league campaign.”
The fact McGinn was the man to see his penalty saved by Ronnow was particularly cruel following yet another fine display by the gifted midfielder.
In a team of European rookies, the Scotland international looked utterly in his element in these refined surroundings, turning in a combative, composed and creative performance in the heart of the pitch.
And McGeouch is certain his close pal will bounce back from the crushing blow.
“Football is a really cruel game sometimes,” rued McGeouch. “John has been outstanding from the minute he walked into this football club and one missed penalty is not going to change that one bit.
“You could hear the fans singing his name after the game . . . they know what he has done for this football club.
“He is a good mate of mine and I’ll be telling him to keep his head up. He has absolutely nothing to be disappointed about. He showed the courage to step up and the goalkeeper has made a good save – it happens. You just need to move on.
“We’ll all pick ourselves up because we did really well to take it to penalties and we have a lot to be proud of.”