Vitesse Arnhem 1 - 1 Hibernian: Hibs manager practises black arts to keep Euro rivals in the dark over squad
The clock is well and truly ticking as Hibernian manager John Hughes faces a race against time to apply the finishing touches to the plan which, he hopes, will extend the Easter Road club's interest in the Europa League beyond the third qualifying round.
After weeks of anticipation as to who the opposition might be, the first tie against Slovenia's most successful club, NK Maribor, is only four days away, with Hughes admitting there is still work to be done before he and his players board their plane on Wednesday.
Hughes already has an initial report from his assistant Brian Rice, who left the club's training camp early to take in Maribor's 2-0 win over Videoton, Dalibor Volas' two goals ensuring a comfortable 3-1 aggregate win against the Hungarian side and the right to progress to this forthcoming two-leg affair against Hibs.
Rice will supply more details later today having taken in Maribor's second league match of the season, away to Rudar Velenje last night, as Hibs' management team prepare for hours of video analysis, pinpointing their opponents' strengths and weaknesses. Maribor won their opening league game with Vito Plut claiming a hat-trick in the 5-0 demolition of Triglav.
Maribor dispatched assistant coach Simundza Ante to the little Dutch village of Driel to watch Hibs wrap up their four-match tour of Holland, the golden boot of Derek Riordan earning them a draw against Vitesse Arnhem for whom Roy de Ruiter had claimed a first-half opener.
Ante took copious notes while an accomplice filmed proceedings, and Maribor's former striker was full of compliments afterwards, describing Hibs as "well-organised" and having surprised him with their propensity for playing the ball on the ground rather than, as he had expected, from back to front.
Hughes, though, kept the likes of Ian Murray, Chris Hogg, Kevin McBride, Liam Miller, Michael Hart and Paul Hanlon up his sleeve, all six remaining firmly rooted to the bench while the Hibs manager indulged in a little of the black arts, only Riordan and Colin Nish bearing numbers on their back which corresponded to the team sheet handed to Ante.
Devious, deceitful? Perhaps, not that Hughes cared, saying: "Call it what you like, I think it's thinking out of the box."
Regardless, Hughes insisted Ante would have learned little from the match, not even, despite his goal, the potent threat Riordan presents from set-plays, the striker on this occasion needing two attempts to find the net after his initial effort from a free-kick was blocked.
Vitesse Arnhem: Velthuizen, Sprockel, Drost, Van der Struijk, Stevanovic, Riedel, Snijders, Van der Linden, Pluim, Kodalak, De Ruiter. Substitutes: Room, Felixdaal, Besselink, Beijer, Damasco, Ozturk, Gashi, Heijckmann, Tekay, Vakalopoulos.
Hibs: Stack (Smith 46), Wotherspoon, Stephens, Thicot, Stevenson, De Graaf, Galbraith, Rankin, Riordan, Nish (Currie 46), Stokes.
Substitutes not used: Murray, Hogg, McBride, Miller, Hart, Hanlon.