McGinn: Euro antics were an eye-opener but Hibs have learned from experience and 'pantomime' win

If famous Hibs fan Grant Stott was in attendance at the European tie on Thursday night he must have been irked by the number of men on the pitch vying for his title of the capital’s best panto villain.

The referee and several Santa Coloma players looked like naturals, which is why it was the perfect night to welcome fans back to Easter Road for their first competitive match in over a year.

With on-field antics lending themselves to wave after wave of jeers and boos, heralding the rogues’ or the moment they took possession of the ball, the fans’ audible rebukes validated the Hibs players’ frustration.

“It did feel like a pantomime,” admitted newly-announced vice captain Paul McGinn, “with the referee being booed off!

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“It was a mad night. It started okay, although we maybe could have punished them a bit more because we were catching them out in the final third and it was just the final ball and final pass that was missing.

“But then there was the mad sending off and for a while after that we were like rabbits in the headlights. We showed them a bit too much respect when we went to 10 men. We were probably not physical enough, we weren’t pressing them, so there was frustration at half-time but the manager stayed calm and said that even with 10 men he still fancied us to go and get a couple more goals in the second half.”

They did just that, with Martin Boyle adding a second goal to his first half penalty and Kevin Nisbet wrapping up some beautifully-worked build-up play with a third nine minutes from the end. That allowed the squad to extrapolate positives from a night of mayhem, and use it as a teaching tool.

Describing Joe Newell’s 29th minute blocked clearance as “innocuous”, McGinn added he has “been in the game long enough now that I know [poor decisions] happen”. But he added that there was annoyance at the officiating and the histrionics and wild challenges of their opponents.

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Hibs' Paul McGinn in action during Thursday night's European tie against Santa Coloma at Easter Road. Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group

“I felt for Joe to be honest.That would have been his first game in Europe and he has lasted 20-odd minutes.

“I suppose it maybe is a more British way of going in tackling but, again, watching it back, it is a strange decision.

“Normally, in this country, if the red is coming they come rapidly, the refs run over and can’t wait to do it. But the way he was, I thought it would be a booking, at worst, so everyone was in total shock at the red.”

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But they will learn from how they dealt with that adversity.

“I was getting a bit frustrated myself because of the way we were sitting off them so much. They were good passers but they are not used to playing at the intensity we are so even with 10 men I wanted to put them under more pressure.”

Bolstered by experience, the fullback hopes that conditions will curtail a repeat of certain tactics on the artificial surface in Andorra next week.

“If it’s on the astro in blistering heat then they won’t want to be going to ground - they won’t want the carpet burns! Hopefully, we have seen the worst of that.”

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