Hibernian captain David Gray made his long-awaited comeback following six months on the sidelines as Danny Swanson inspired the capital club to a 2-0 victory against Linlithgow Rose.
The 30-year-old has not stepped onto the grass since suffering a ruptured achilles tendon during a friendly match against Willem II in January, as part of the Hibees’ winter training camp in the Algarve.
However, he has been a part of full training since Neil Lennon’s, right, men reported back for pre-season and he showed no signs of rustiness as he climbed from the bench yesterday to play a decisive role against the Rosey Posey.
Gray teed up the opening goal for fellow second-half substitute Danny Swanson after 52 minutes, slipping a neat pass to the mercurial playmaker who curled a clinical effort beyond Gary Maley – Livingston’s number two last season, turning out as a trialist at Prestonfield.
As the sun beat down on Linlithgow, Swanson was the man who really shone. He bagged a brace in the dying embers when he met a slick Oli Shaw cut-back to fizz a low drive into the net from 18 yards.
Hibs head coach Neil Lennon beat a hasty retreat in the aftermath of the victory, failing to speak to the assembled media and leaving questions regarding the club’s reported interest in Preston winger Daryl Horgan unanswered.
Instead, it was left to Linlithgow boss Mark Bradley to lavish praise on his players – and he revealed that the swift departure of Lennon was nothing compared to John Ovenstone, another Rose trialist, who had to be replaced on the hour-mark so he could start his shift as a fireman.
“John played for us before, I signed him – but he hasn’t kicked a ball in nine months!” lauded Bradley.
“We had to take John off because he had to get to his work! He’s a fireman and he had to get to Glenrothes for the start of his shift. So we didn’t have much choice with that substitution, but it’s great that he turned up.
“He was excellent. It was a makeshift team we had out there – we had to call in some favours from former players – but I don’t think it looked like that at any point.
“It was a great game for us, a great occasion and we got a lot out of it.”
While Bradley can rightly be proud of his side’s efforts, there can be little doubt that Hibs deserved to emerge from their maiden pre-season outing with a victory.
As they step up preparations for their Europa League clash against NSI Runavik at Easter Road on July 12, Steven Whittaker lashed a shot narrowly wide in the first period while Efe Ambrose – meandering forward with freedom – threatened.
Simon Murray, seeking to stake his claim for a first-team berth after returning from a loan stint with Dundee in the second half of last season, blew the chance to open the scoring when sent haring through on goal and the excellent John McGinn shot inches off target.
Nevertheless, the profligacy proved moot thanks to Swanson’s second-half interventions.–