Hibs 1-3 Newcastle: Mallan strikes early but Magpies prove too strong

A decent run out, against quality opposition, among the main objectives would have been simply getting through the match without any significant injuries, to the collective ego or key players.

Stevie Mallan fires the ball home to give Hibs an early lead in their friendly against Newcastle. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS
Stevie Mallan fires the ball home to give Hibs an early lead in their friendly against Newcastle. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

In that regard, it was a successful night as Hibernian made a match of things and managed to give most of the first-team squad some minutes on the pitch without 
adding to the current list of casualties.

Hibs manager Paul Heckingbottom had admitted that the scheduling of the high-profile friendly was not ideal and while it was one he said the players and fans would look forward to, he would have preferred to have played the match a couple of weeks ago and pitted his men against a slightly more ring-rusty Newcastle side.

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A multi-million pound English Premier League squad up against a team whose £300,000 signing of Christian Doidge made the striker’s arrival last month more noteworthy, the Leith men were given the runaround at times.

But the fact they were not embarrassed will be a source of confidence as they head into their league curtain raiser against St Mirren on Saturday.

The Paisley side will undoubtedly be less daunting guests, the black and white strips the only real similarity, and the capital side have shown that when they are focused and on it, they have the potential to push for their targets of Europe and silverware.

The pre-match news that Martin Boyle has again been sidelined for a prolonged period due to the knee knock sustained in Friday night’s Betfred Cup tussle with Elgin City was a blow, with the winger only just back from a similar injury, which he picked up while on international duty with Australia at the turn of the year.

But that disappointment will have been offset by the return to form of both Vykintas Slivka and Ryan Porteous, who both featured.

The head to head started positively for the Easter Road side as they stunned Steve Bruce’s stars by taking the game to them in the early stages and snatching the lead when a lovely diagonal ball from young Sean Mackie picked out Florian Kamberi and he managed to get the ball back to Stevie Mallan on the edge of the area.

It was the perfect shooting range for a player who has earned a reputation for finding the net from outside the box. Right on the perimeter, he stopped the ball with one foot and then slammed a shot past Newcastle keeper Karl Darlow with the other.

It silenced the away end for probably the only time in the contest and served as a wake-up call to the visiting players, who slipped up through the gears and kept their hosts on the back foot for most of the remainder of the match.

Almiron and Joelinton combined for the equaliser six minutes later when the former whipped in a dangerous cross from the right and £35m signing Joelinton slid in ahead of the Hibs back line and got the touch that sent it past the keeper and him into the far post as momentum proved both friend and foe. Joe Newell had a shot in the 19th minute that proved it wasn’t totally one-way traffic but it was deflected off target and was one of the few chances Hibs mustered as Newcastle began to turn the screw the longer the half wore on.

In the 23rd minute, Ofir Marciano had to spare Paul Hanlon’s blushes as a Sean Longstaff cross almost found Almiron but the Hibs defender got a boot to it and almost put it beyond his own keeper who luckily halted it on the line

Almiron was then through on goal but Marciano got out well to make his body big and the target small, successfully blocking the shot. Longstaff was then denied before Jonjo Shelvey’s cross found Jamaal Lascelles but he stabbed inches wide from close in.

The guests’ pace and mobility around the box was just too much for Hibs to handle and, although they had made a couple of blocks, the second and third balls were being pounced on by the English side and, when it broke to Longstaff on the edge of the area, he found the opening and lashed a low, perfectly placed shot neatly just inside the post to give the diving Marciano 
little chance of keeping it out.

Heckingbottom made wholesale changes at half-time, sending on a virtually new team and they managed to stem the flow. Newcastle also mixed things up and there were more subs than goals or real chances as the rhythm of the play was disrupted.

There was, however, a goal from Lascelles in the 71st minute to wrap up the scoring and, while that header delighted the travelling support, the biggest cheer from the home fans came when young 
Porteous entered the fray after almost six months battling back from injury.

It doesn’t make up for the loss of Boyle but at least it gave them and Heckingbottom something to smile about.