Hibernian head coach Neil Lennon hopes he is given the funds to pursue his ambitions of progressing on the European stage after a frustrating exit at the hands of Molde in Norway last night.
The capital club can look back on their Europa League exploits with plenty of pride, having eliminated both Runavik and Asteras Tripolis in the first two rounds of qualifying. However, the 3-0 defeat by Molde at the Aker Stadium, following a goalless draw in the first leg at Easter Road last week, brings the adventure to a close and denies Hibs a place in the play-off round.
Lennon believes this should be the “benchmark” for his side, but insists that will require strengthening following the loss of influential midfielder John McGinn to Aston Villa.
“We’ve competed very well in Europe,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of money to spend and we’ve lost our best player [McGinn]. It’s still very early in our season and the boys can be proud of their efforts.
“Can this be the benchmark? I hope so but I think we need more investment. We need to bring in a couple more players because the squad is definitely thin.
“We are in a healthy position – but I always want more. I had aspirations of trying to make the group stages but it’s not to be. But now I’m looking to have a strong season domestically.
“Our squad is thin and this is a new experience for a lot of them. You could see some of them physically wilting towards the end with the match fitness of Molde, who are an excellent side – but a few of the players will have some regrets over the two legs.”
Those “regrets”, specifically, come in the form of gilt-edged chances missed by Martin Boyle and Jamie Maclaren, with the latter heading against the post from six yards.
“I always felt we were in the tie. We had good chances – in the first leg as well – and we didn’t take them so we only have ourselves to blame,” he continued. “We’ve let this one slip. Boyle got in a couple of times and we should do better. We’ve hit the post as well.
“We should have scored and that would have changed the psychology and complexion of the tie. The second goal was the killer. We threw caution to the wind after that and the third goal was academic. I felt 3-0 flattered Molde.”
Such profligacy was not an issue for Molde, who were able to call upon young striker Erling Braut Haaland, who looks every inch the superstar he is being billed as. He scored twice and set up Fredrik Aursnes’ “killer” goal.
“I thought Haaland was the difference between the two teams,” Lennon acknowledged. “You can see why he is a very sought-after player. I can’t berate my players. Molde are a good side and I wish them well in the competition.”