THIS was meant to be the first competitive game of the new campaign for both sides. But the palpable gulf in class ensured Hibernian enjoyed a comfortable afternoon stroll on their way to beating Montrose in their opening Betfred Cup Group D encounter.
Simon Murray, the summer recruit from Dundee United, got his account for his new club up and running with a brace that bookended a strike from namesake Fraser.
Teenager Fraser Murray’s all-round dynamic performance was recognised when he was also named man of the match.
Steven Whittaker watched on from the stands just hours after completing his return to the club on a three-year deal and Hibs head coach Neil Lennon was understandably delighted that protracted negotiations reached a successful conclusion.
“Steven is a great signing for us,” said Lennon.
“He’s a model pro and brings quality and experience. He’s had a fantastic career up until now and there’s no question he’ll make us better.
“He’s 33 and players play longer now. He looks after himself and is in in great condition and in pre-season he’s looked fine running-wise so three years is no problem.
“I’ve always admired him as a player. He’s been very consistent throughout his career. He was excellent here when he started off and was probably first pick at Rangers where he had a great time.”
There will be no terms offered to former Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant, however – at least for the time being.
The 34-year-old had featured in all three of the Leith side’s pre-season matches but Lennon has turned his attention elsewhere.
“There’s nothing for Jermaine Pennant at the minute but we might review it later on,” he added.
“We were pleased with what he brought but we have prioritised other positions.”
While summer signing Simon Murray was on target with two goals, it was 18-year-old pair, forward Fraser and defender Ryan Porteous – making his competitive debut, who continue to impress.
“Ryan Porteous has been outstanding in pre-season and looks very assured and we know Fraser Murray is a very good player, so I had no qualms in starting them,” stated Lennon.
Porteous is making the most of his opportunity with Paul Hanlon still sidelined due to a persistent pelvic injury and Efe Ambrose missing yesterday after enjoying an unauthorised prolonged summer break.
The Gable Endies set out their stall to try and contain their Premiership counterparts but this plan was blown out of the water after 22 minutes as the Leith outfit raced into a two-goal lead.
Martin Boyle had already served note of Hibs’ intent with a low 20-yard drive that came back off the post after nine minutes.
But then the two Murrays, Simon and Fraser seized the initiative. The elder of the two, Simon, was first to draw blood – the forward rising at the front post to head in Lewis Stevenson’s cross after the left-back created room on the flank up against Craig Johnston.
Fraser had already more than justified his inclusion in the side during the first quarter of the tie but he reinforced his reputation as an exciting young talent with the second in the 22nd minute.
The teenager exchanged passes with his namesake before burying a low drive beyond Allan Fleming from 12 yards.
The match was competitive in name but a sparse crowd and Hibs’ total dominance meant it had a pre-season feel to it.
A high-octane start to the second period saw both sides waste good opportunities, Gary Fraser of Montrose, and Hibs pair Simon Murray and David Gray the guilty parties.
But Simon added a third for the home side in the 53rd minute, nodding in Boyle’s cross.
Substitute Graham rounded off the scoring in the 88th minute from the penalty spot after Graham Webster was penalised for handling Lewis Stevenson’s
Hibs will a tougher test when they travel to top-flight rivals Ross County in their next group clash on Friday.
Montrose manager Stewart Petrie admits his side’s trip to Easter Road was a memorable experience, despite the defeat.
He said: “It was always going to be a difficult afternoon and when you lose an early goal you’re up against it.
“Credit to them, they worked as hard as they could for us this afternoon and the better team won
“But I’m proud of the boys, it was a great occasion for them, it was great for the young ones to come on too.”