Hibernian head coach Alan Stubbs believes an “emotional” first trip to Africa was the inspiration behind Dominique Malonga’s weekend hat-trick – and hopes international duty will have the same effect next time.
Malonga made his debut for Congo as they qualified for January’s African Cup of Nations with a 1-0 victory over Sudan last Wednesday and brushed off a gruelling return to Scotland with a clinical display.
The Paris-born striker’s hat-trick helped Hibs see off Dumbarton 6-3 and proved how much he had been missed seven days previously when the Easter Road outfit laboured to a goalless stalemate at home to Queen of the South.
Rather than being left drained by his marathon 4,000-mile journey back to Edinburgh on Friday, Stubbs reckons the 25-year-old was invigorated by the experience, during which he caught up with family he has never met before.
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Although he is now set to lose the September signing for a month in the New Year if he is called up for the ACN finals in Equatorial Guinea, the Easter Road boss said: “I said before Saturday’s game that I was delighted he was coming back having played over there because his confidence would be sky high.
“He’s come back and he’s got a big smile on his face. He’s seen some of his family for the first time and it was emotional, but it has given him a lot of confidence. I wouldn’t mind him going away a little bit more often if he keeps coming back and scoring like that. But it showed that he is an important player for us.”
Although he claimed he never feared his side would allow their 3-0 half-time lead to be cancelled out entirely by Dumbarton at the Bet Butler Stadium, Stubbs confessed that he would have liked a more comfortable afternoon.
The Sons managed to claw themselves back to 3-2 and 4-3 before two late goals from Hibs ensured there would be no grandstand finish.
Stubbs told Hibernian TV: “I would be happy (if it was 6-3 every week), but I don’t know what it’s going to do for my hair. I haven’t got any grey hair at this moment in time and I don’t intend investing in any dye to try and hide it either.
“But I didn’t actually think they were going to pull it back to level. I don’t know why, I just didn’t; I felt as if it was just a kick up the backside, and as soon as they scored we responded every time, which was great to see.
“But I would like to see us respond at 3-0, rather than at 3-1 or 3-2.”
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