Ryan Gauld impresses in debut as Hibs ease into fifth round

Ryan Gauld finds some space during Hibs' comfortable win over Elgin City on Saturday. Picture: SNS
Ryan Gauld finds some space during Hibs' comfortable win over Elgin City on Saturday. Picture: SNS
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It was a comfortable start to the competition for Hibernian but everyone at the Easter Road club is confident it is simply
the beginning of what 
they intend to be a lengthy journey.

After a stuttering first half of the season they have returned from the winter break with a renewed sense of purpose and some new faces who can embolden them even further as they try to push up the league table and challenge for the Scottish Cup.

“It was great to get a win,” said two-goal hero Daryl
Horgan. “The priority was just to get through and we did that. We are eighth in the league at the minute and that’s not good enough so we have to really improve in the second half of the season. We want to get into the top six and then push on into the top four and, in this cup as well, we want to go far.”

The arrival of the likes of Ryan Gauld will help with that goal. The attacker, on loan from Sporting Lisbon until the end of the campaign, is just one of the newcomers but while Tommy Block had to content himself with a place on the bench and Stephane Omeonga watched from the stand as they await the paperwork being finalised, the creative Scot made his debut and made his presence felt.

“You saw Ryan’s quality. I thought he was brilliant,” said Horgan. “His control in tight areas, his awareness of where everyone is on the pitch, his weight of pass, things like that. He is going to be a massive addition for us and he will help us all.

“I think he helped us tick in this game. He is a very intelligent player and you don’t get a move to a big club like Sporting Lisbon when you are that young if you’re not and he is going to be a big plus for us in the second half of the season.”

Elgin City were, of course, a side Hibs should be beating. Plying their trade in lowly League Two, the part-time Borough Briggs boys were determined and organised and didn’t look cowed by reputations but, against a side who finished in the top half of the top tier last season, that was never likely to be enough if their hosts turned up and, with Gauld pulling strings and linking the midfield with attack, the home side certainly took control early in proceedings.

The opening goal came when the former Dundee United player latched on to a Darren McGregor ball forward and played the pass through for Florian Kamberi, who rounded Elgin City keeper Thomas McHale and slotted home from a tight angle.

Horgan added: “[Gauld] seems to have a knack for being in the right place, as we saw out there. The game looked easy for him. No game of football is easy but he just looked comfortable in possession and, even when he didn’t have the ball, he managed to make sure he had a wee three-yard circle of space around him and gave us an option so hopefully he can keep that level going and he will be a big plus for us.”

There were plenty of other scoring opportunities but the home side were not clinical enough, with headers from Steven Whittaker, Vykintas Slivka, McGregor and Gauld, while Horgan forced a quality save from the visiting keeper, and Stevie Mallan had a pop from the edge of the area.

But Horgan did double the tally a few minutes later when he burst through on Slivka’s ball upfield. As it bounced, he outjumped McHale and, although he was clattered in the process, he managed to nod the ball into the net for only the second headed goal of his career.

“You could say they are rare enough but I won’t complain so long as they go in,” Horgan said. “He left one on me but that’s his job and I don’t blame him at all. No harm done.”

McHale redeemed himself with a penalty save from Kamberi in the 32nd minute but he was less successful when the visitors conceded a second spot-kick just before the interval. That time Mallan was clinical with his finish to give the home side a comfortable 3-0 advantage.

Rabin Omar had the best of Elgin’s chances but having been weak with an effort in the first half, he blew a clear opening at the start of the second half, screwing his strike wide and, when Hibs grabbed a fourth goal minutes later, it was simply a case of keeping things respectable.

That goal was a second for Horgan, who charged into the box to get on the end of Whittaker’s 53rd-minute cross but there was no hat-trick. Instead, he tried to play in substitute Oli Shaw in the 69th minute but the ball seemed to get caught up under the youngster’s feet.