Hibs keeper Mark Brown not disillusioned despite conceding three on debut

He'd waited a long time, 204 days to be precise, to make his debut, the stage set for Mark Brown as Hibs prepared to open that impressive new East Stand at Easter Road with the visit of his first club, SPL champions Rangers.

Unfortunately for the goalkeeper his big day didn't quite work out as he might have hoped, a hat-trick from Ibrox striker Kenny Miller claiming the headlines as Walter Smith's side ultimately cruised to victory as they begin their bid to clinch a third successive title.

Today, however, Brown insisted the final scoreline, while emphatic, wasn't a true reflection on the preceding 90 minutes, adamant Hibs had, for long spells, more than matched the Glasgow outfit.

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And had it not been for a glaring miss from Dutch signing Edwin de Graaf, the midfielder failing to spot the on-rushing Madjid Bougherra as he prepared to turn Danny Galbraith's cut-back into the net just minutes before ex- Hibee Miller struck for the first time, the final outcome might have been different.

"Would we have gone on to win?" asked the 29-year-old. "Who knows, but it would have put an entirely different perspective on the game.

"Edwin said he simply just didn't see Bougherra coming. Had we got the goal we'd probably have been able to relax a bit and I'm sure our confidence would have been given a boost.

"As it was, Rangers got that first goal and you good see them relax a bit and gain in confidence.

"Up to that point we'd looked pretty comfortable, there hadn't been a lot of chances created by either side, and I thought for long spells we'd done okay. But that's football, it's wonderful, all the ifs and buts throughout a season if this or that had happened or hadn't happened."

What wasn't open to question was the clinical manner in which Miller claimed the opening goal, rifling fellow striker James Beattie's pass high into the net with Brown left helpless having pushed Sasa Papac's deflected shot wide of the target.

Brown said: "I didn't know if the original shot was going in after it took a nick off Chris Hogg, but Kevin McBride, who saw it on television, said the ball looked as if it was going to hit the post. It was one I just couldn't leave, the only hope is that someone is following in to clear but Beattie, as all strikers do, anticipated where the ball was going to go and got there first. It was disappointing but that's the class Rangers have, as the game wears on and there is more space they create chances."

Miller went on to claim the third hat-trick of his career and with the Scotland forward having notched 21 last season, Brown believes his former team-mate is finally emerging from the shadow of goal-scorer extraordinaire, Kris Boyd who is now with Middlesbrough.

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He said: "I've played with Kenny both at Rangers and Celtic and know his quality. Perhaps in the past he has sacrificed himself a bit doing all the donkey work for the other striker.

"Last year he came to the fore when Kris wasn't about and he's continued that into this season.

"But I thought the final scoreline was a bit cruel on us, 3-0 always sounds much worse than 2-0 and people will think Rangers won very easily.

"The third goal didn't come until deep into added-on time, though, and for much of the game I felt it was pretty even-stevens but that's probably why Rangers are champions."

And that, insisted Brown, was a point which shouldn't be forgotten, eight of the Ibrox side having been in the starting line-up when the Glasgow team clinched the title at Easter Road back in April.

He said: "People forget Rangers are more or less the same team that won the league last season.

"They've brought in Beattie to replace Boyd and the new boy on loan from Manchester City, Vladimir Weiss, looked pretty impressive.

"Otherwise, they've been playing together for years, they hadn't signed a player for two years until this summer so it's not as if we were playing against a brand-new Rangers team.

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"They are the team that's won two titles but I think it shows how far we have come in that we are disappointed to have lost.

"We went into the match believing we had a chance, that we could get something from the game but, unfortunately, it didn't work out for us on the day.

"It's not as if we have lost to a team that's struggling, we were beaten by the champions and yet we played some good stuff and had some chances so we have to take the positives and work on the things that did not work go so well."

Brown agreed midfield star Kevin McBride's red card probably hurt Hibs more than Kyle Lafferty's sending off had damaged Rangers, the pair controversially given their marching orders by referee Iain Brines following a clash on the halfway line two minutes from the interval.

He said: "Kevin does a great job for us in the middle of the park but the referee makes the decisions and you have to deal with the consequences as best you can." Now, though, Brown declared, Hibs must forget the weekend setback and concentrate on getting three points when they face St Mirren in what will be their third Sunday match in succession with the former Rangers, Motherwell, Inverness Caley, Celtic and Kilmarnock star hoping that having made his long-awaited debut in place of the injured Graham Stack, he'll keep the gloves for the trip to Paisley.

Brown, who pulled off a stunning point-blank save as he pushed Maurice Edu's header over, said: "I'd waited a long time for my chance having signed for Hibs back in January. I then broke my hand and in the first couple of games the manager picked Stacky.

"However, we knew he'd be out but I didn't know if it would be Graeme Smith or myself in goal.

"I'd been on the bench the previous week at Motherwell and while I obviously hoped it would be me, the manager didn't give us a hint until he named the team on the morning of the game. From a personal point of view it was good to get the nod but in terms of the result it was disappointing. Now we have to pick ourselves up, we had a good victory at Motherwell and for large spells of the game we more than matched Rangers so we have to be positive.

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"The fans came out in numbers for this game and with the new East Stand opening there was a great atmosphere, unfortunately we were not able to mark the occasion with a winning performance or even a draw.

"Having a crowd of more than 17,000 considering it was a lunch-time start and live on television was terrific.

"We know things are tough for a lot of people, it's not easy for them to spend their hard-earned cash on football when they probably have other commitments at the moment but as players we appreciate their support, it really does help us and hopefully they will continue to come and give us their backing."