With the Europa Conference League play-off tie effectively over after Villa’s 5-0 win last week, the return leg was less of an exhibition, Unai Emery resting several first-team players ahead of their league game against Liverpool at the weekend.
Gray said: “I’m proud of the players, they worked to the very end in difficult circumstances at the club. I can’t fault the effort, commitment, or response we’ve had from them. The scoreline is not what we want but in terms of overall performance and bravery on the ball it was a much better account of ourselves albeit a disappointing result.”
Hibs started brightly but were a goal down after just 12 minutes, Jhon Duran ghosting through the defence and beating David Marshall with a deft finish, and Leon Bailey made it two ten minutes from the break. The third goal came after Marshall fumbled a Bailey free kick with Matty Cash slamming home the loose ball.
“Playing against this level of opposition, if you switch off for a second or make a slight mistake then you get punished,” Gray continued. “We suffered a bit of that. Once we conceded the goal we wobbled a little bit and hung on for ten minutes. But credit to the boys, they settled down and kept going.”
The caretaker boss also paid tribute to the vocal travelling support, who backed the team throughout the 90-plus minutes after travelling down to Birmingham in their thousands.
“I’ve been at the club for nearly ten years and they’ve been fantastic the whole time. I know there were 2,000 in the ground but I’m sure a lot more than that came down. To come down here after the scoreline in the first leg just shows that their support has always been there for us. We’re grateful to have such a fantastic support.”
He is also hopeful Jordan Obita’s injury is not as bad as first feared.
“It’s very early to say but fingers crossed it’s not as bad as it looks. We weren’t going to take any risks with the situation, the scoreline, and Aberdeen at the weekend. It’s a quick turnaround and we’ll have to wait and see.”