Neil Lennon hailed his Hibs players for a mature performance against Molde as they gave themselves every chance of edging one step closer to the Europa League group stage.
The goalless draw at Easter Road means that a score draw in the second leg would allow them to progress to the play-off round of the competition and Lennon says he is confident they can travel to Norway and get the necessary goals.
“It was a good game. The only disappointment is that we did not take the lead,” the Hibs manager said. “But we got a clean sheet and we played maturely. Their keeper made a few saves but there was not a lot in the game.
“But from where we are in terms of being at the start of the season we are still in the tie – and I am pleased.
“We have to score over there but Molde have to score too. Nil-nil can be a positive or a negative.
“Can we score over there? Yes, I’m confident we can. I don’t see why we can’t score. We look like a team that can score but we will need to defend well and pick our moments.
“But I don’t want us to go over there and just defend. I believe we can definitely score, although Molde will have more of the ball over there and their rotation of the ball is good.”
Gaining experience and fitness with every tie, Lennon said his players had been streetwise in the way they had approached the 90 minutes.
“We are novices at this level but I thought we played a mature game tonight,” he added.
“We just lacked that little bit of oomph. We could have done a bit more in the final third at times but I’m not disappointed at all. We looked like we flagged at the end but that’s understandable. And we will be a week fitter next week.”
Without the talismanic John McGinn following his departure to Aston Villa on Wednesday night, Stevie Mallan was the driving force in the centre of the park for Hibs. And while Lennon says he is still in the hunt for two new acquisitions, he was impressed by the man he signed in the summer from Barnsley and also believes that debutant Emerson Hyndman, who had a great chance to snatch the victory in the dying minutes, can make a positive impact in the coming weeks and months.
“I liked him at Rangers,”
Lennon said of the on-loan American midfielder who signed a six-month deal on Wednesday evening. “He’s got creativity and 18 months down the line [from his Ibrox stint] he has taken a stretch. He picks the right pass and he was unlucky not to win us the game. But I was pleased with his contribution.
“Stevie was brilliant. He was so unlucky not to score. He had a tremendous effort that hit the crossbar and his energy and all-round play was great. He’s been a huge source of encouragement for me.”