Johnson has ‘established and accomplished’ Hibs squad for new season

Johnson received a boost on Thursday when Martin Boyle returned from a nine-month absence to net twice in a 6-1 win.

Lee Johnson has ‘established and accomplished’ Hibs squad for his second season SNS Group

Hibernian manager Lee Johnson believes his squad is stronger heading into his second cinch Premiership season in charge.

Johnson received a boost on Thursday when Martin Boyle returned from a nine-month absence to net twice in the 6-1 Europa Conference League win over Andorran side Inter d’Escaldes.

The Hibs manager will soon have big-money signing Dylan Vente to call on, although not for Sunday’s league opener against St Mirren, after the Dutch striker was brought in as a replacement for Kevin Nisbet.

Although he is facing a potential goalkeeper crisis early in the season and has long-term absentees in Harry McKirdy and Chris Cadden, Johnson is more comfortable with the position of his squad.

“I think we are more established and accomplished in terms of the depth,” said the Hibs boss, who has doubts over goalkeepers David Marshall and Jojo Wollacott and recalled 18-year-old Murray Johnson from a loan spell after Max Boruc made his debut in midweek.

“You have got to remember that last year when I came into the club there were seven injuries and we signed potential, and didn’t get those injuries back as quick as we would have hoped.

“But since then we spent a lot of time coaching up as well. Allan Delferriere played the other night, Will Fish didn’t play much for the first six months and now look at the way Will Fish is perceived. Josh Campbell is really starting to have an impact game on game.

“You can’t forget the development factor. Young Reuben McAllister made his debut on Thursday at 17 years old.

“The energy that everyone is constantly putting into the club, we hope bears fruit.”

Hibs further built for the future on Saturday when 17-year-old forward Rudi Molotnikov signed a three-year contract.

The Scotland Under-17 international has featured for the first team in pre-season and was in Hibernian’s European squad.

Molotnikov, who spent time at local boys clubs Loanhead Miners and Lochend before moving to the Hibs academy, said: “I am absolutely delighted to extend my stay at this amazing club, which I have supported all my life.

“Coming through the academy and getting my first contract was a big achievement for me and now I have been given another chance to kick on even further.

“It has been amazing to play with the first team recently and play in front of the fans. Now my focus is on working hard and trying to establish a place in the team going forward.”

Johnson added: “I have been delighted with Rudi’s application and attitude in recent months, as well as his natural ability which has earned him this new contract.

“He has adapted well to the first-team environment and is a good example of the player pathway we have in place for our young players at Hibs.

“The hard work for Rudi really starts now, but we all believe in him and are rooting for him to do well.”

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