Gibraltar XI 1-3 Hibernian: Mullen among goals

Pat Fenlon: Pleased with friendly result. Picture: SNS
Pat Fenlon: Pleased with friendly result. Picture: SNS
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Hibernian manager Pat Fenlon insists Fraser Mullen will thrive if handed a European baptism of fire later this month, after the youngster marked his debut for the Leithers with a sensational free-kick.

Scorers: Gibraltar XI - Lopez (55); Hibernian - Mullen (13), Handling (61), Caldwell (76)

Referee: Yaro Borg

Attendance: 2,000

There was a sign of things to come for the teenage right-back, with a band of supporters decked in Hearts jerseys – a long way from Gorgie – among a vociferous portion of the crowd jeering him mercilessly throughout.

Mullen, of course, became the latest man to cross the 
Edinburgh divide after being 
released by the Tynecastle club in May.

However it will be the Hibernian supporters hoping Mullen’s performance was the true sign of things to come.

In his first appearance since breaking his foot in March, ironically against Hibs, the cut an energetic figure down the right flank and produced the game’s stand-out moment of quality.

Utterly against the run of play, with a handy Gibraltar side creating all the early opportunities, the former Jambo curled Hibs into the lead, with a 25-yard free-kick past the flailing Jamie Robba.

With Hibs’ first-choice right-back, Tim Clancy, struggling to recover from a summer groin operation in time to face either Drogheda or Malmo on July 18, Mullen must now be favourite to make his competitive bow in the Europa League.

It is not a prospect which holds any fears for Fenlon.

“It was a tough ask for him but he has a great mentality. If they are good enough, they are old enough,” said the Irishman.

“If they are fit and ready to play, they will play. Tim [Clancy] will be struggling for Europe but we also need to be careful with Fraser. We can’t push him too hard.

“It was a great goal and I was delighted for him.

“You are always looking for players who can deliver the ball at set-pieces and he has a lot of ability.

“We had that with Leigh [Griffiths] last season and it’s a great bonus for us.”

Fenlon has every right to be pleased with a testing workout on a balmy night on The Rock.

Gibraltar, ratified as a UEFA nation in May, were far from no-hopers and, in Portsmouth’s Liam Walker, had arguably the best player on the pitch.

Walker, Gibraltar’s only professional export, cut a swathe through the Hibs defence 
within 60 seconds, but Anthony Hernandez blasted his effort over the bar.

That was quickly followed by Nathan Santos firing into the grateful arms of back-up goalkeeper Sean Murdoch, making his first appearance of this pre-season.

The Hibs stopper also made an outstanding save from Joseph Chipolina on the stroke of half-time.

While Mullen’s wonder-strike was deserving of winning any game, Gibraltar deserved at least a goal to show from an industrious display, and Jeremy Lopez restored parity from point-blank range on 55 minutes.

However, a fine team move involving Paul Cairney, Alex Harris and Ross Caldwell was consummately finished off by Danny Handling, who netted his first goal of pre-season.

Some late gloss was applied to the scoreline for the 
Edinburgh side, with Caldwell converting a cross from teenage substitute Dean Horribine.

“I was delighted. We played well, scored some decent goals and worked hard,” added Fenlon.

“The weather was good and we finished strong. The fitness levels were good. That was pleasing and we got some fresh legs on.”

Gibraltar XI: Robba; D Duarte, Casciaro, Sargaent, Chipolina; Hernandez, Walker, Payas, Ruiz, Guiling (Lopez 46); Santos (JP Duarte 46).

Hibernian: Murdoch; Mullen (McGivern 64), Hanlon, Forster, Stevenson (Gold 71); Stanton (Harris 50), Taiwo (Horribine 64), Thomson (Craig 46), Cairney (Tudur Jones 64); Handling (Donaldson 82), Caldwell. Subs not used: Williams.