Lee Johnson plays down Hibs fan anger as team faces Euro decider

Supporters vented their fury after the club's brutal 2-1 loss to Inter Club d'Escaldes.

Hibs manager Lee Johnson is confident his side can overcome their defeat to Inter Club d’Escaldes to reach the next round of the Europa Conference League, and has shrugged off fan anger after the shock loss in Andorra last week.

The Premiership side were stunned by Andorran minnows Inter in their first competitive game of the season, losing 2-1 in the first leg of the second qualifying round tie.

Johnson and his players now need a win at Easter Road to progress and keep alive their hopes of reaching the group stage of the competition.

The manager had sought to play down the result last week, citing difficult conditions and insisting the loss wasn’t an embarrassment. He says that the return leg is a game he’s looking forward to and that his team can get the outcome they want.

“It’ll be a completely different game,” Johnson said. “We’ll be on home turf, the pitch is ten yards wider, the pitch is slick and there’s no altitude.

“So it’s a very different game and they’ll have to cope with conditions, just like we had to at their place.”

Video that circulated on social media after full time in Andorra showed furious supporters venting their anger at the team and manager as they left the field. Johnson defended their right to make their feelings known but said that their backing would be important on Thursday.

“Fans have to be allowed to be fans,” he said. “They have to wear their heart on their sleeve.

“I think they love us really. I really do and the feeling is mutual.

“Sometimes in a big family you have those arguments and discussions and in one sense it was fair game.

“Sometimes it gets a little bit too personal and you may have seen me asking an individual or two to calm down, and that was based on the personal nature of a couple of comments I heard.

“We are at half-time. We are looking for a massive performance from our team and also our supporters.

“They all want us to do well, we all want to progress through to the next round and part of our performance is the supporters and we certainly need them.”

Johnson will have important selection decisions to make ahead of the match, with two players in focus for different reasons.

Talismanic forward Martin Boyle is back after a nine-month injury lay-off after suffering a cruciate ligament injury. He played in Saturday’s friendly against Blackpool and is in contention to face Inter.

“I am very happy with him,” Johnson said. “He has been exemplary as a professional in terms of the work he has done in the gym and the physical effort he has put in.

“It is not easy to come back from an injury like that and I feel like he is ready to play a part.”

The manager may also make a call on who starts in goal, after veteran keeper David Marshall was at fault for the second goal in Andorra.

While Johnson defended Marhsall to an extent, he did sign two goalkeepers over the summer, bringing in Jojo Wollactoot from Charlton and Max Boruc from Slask Wroclaw on permanent deals.

 “I have three good goalkeepers and a good one out on loan as well,” he said.

“Marsh is an experienced player, of course he has made a mistake but I will be honest my initial instinct was, ‘where was all the cover?’

“We have to expect the worst at a moment like that. That was my disappointment in potentially some individuals taking the Andorrans a little bit lightly.

“Maybe in a domestic game, let’s say Celtic away, defenders quickly get back in and sweep that up if an error is made.

“Unfortunately if you are a goalkeeper it’s fatal. It was a slip, it wasn’t a technical error. We will have to see.”

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