AFTER a courageous display that deserves to be remembered for a long time by Hibs fans, the Easter Road club went out of Europe in the cruellest possible fashion, losing on a penalty shootout to a Danish team that were never their superiors in normal time.

John McGinn missed his spot kick in the shootout lottery which was particularly cruel as he had been excellent for 120 minutes. Brondby scored all of theirs though debutant goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw got very close to stopping a couple, and it was the far-from-great Danes who advanced to the third qualifying round.

Manager Neil Lennon, banished to the stands, sprang a surprise with the first name on his team selection, dropping goalkeeper Otso Virtanen after his howler last week, and bringing in Laidlaw for his debut – what a swift promotion for the 23-year-old who was on loan to Elgin from Raith Rovers the last time he played.

Laidlaw had an easy enough introduction early doors as Brondby and Hibs’ outfield players carried on where they left off last week with physical stuff.

McGinn was showing up well in midfield along with Dylan McGeouch, and Hibs got forward to earn corners which they wasted, frankly. At the other end, Lebogang Phiri curled his shot just over the bar.

Brondby were better on the ball, but Darren McGregor and the very impressive Paul Hanlon were coping well in defence while Laidlaw looked quite comfortable in European football, reacting superbly to tip Christian Norgaard’s shot over the bar.

After a half of very few chances, it was Hibs who started the second period on the offensive and Gray should have done better than head McGinn’s pinpoint cross wide.

The Scottish Cup winners were looking threatening now, and after Grant Holt and Lewis Stevenson linked up, McGinn’s header was straight to Frederik Ronnow in the Brondby goal.

Hibs were not to be denied for long, however. After 62 minutes, Marvin Bartley sent Jason Cummings away down the right and his cross was deflected behind for a corner. The ball went behind off a home player for a second corner and McGeouch’s kick was partially cleared to McGregor who got the ball forward for Gray to pounce and lift the ball over Ronnow.

The goal stunned the Brondby fans and players alike, and the Danish side upped their gear to try and get the winner.

Hibs’ skipper Gray’s luck ran out with 15 minutes left, Gray falling awkwardly on his shoulder after being cynically felled by Nordgaard – rightly booked for it – and eventually being replaced by Martin Boyle.

Brondby sensed Hibs’ upset and charged forward, but Hanlon and McGregor were stonewall, and when Larsson got through, Laidlaw pulled off a wonderful save to thwart the Swedish international.

There were zero chances in extra time until McGinn spotted Ronnow off his line and unsuccessfully tried a shot from his own half.

Brondby piled forward, and Hibs rode their luck and soon enough it was penalties, and a very bad night for Edinburgh football was complete.