Darren McGregor leapt to the defence of Mark Oxley and insisted the under-fire goalkeeper has the full backing of his Hibs team-mates.
The English goalkeeper was at fault for Rangers’ first goal in the Easter Road side’s 3-2 win on Wednesday, just days after his debutant deputy, Conrad Logan, had produced a man-of-the-match performance in the Scottish Cup semi-final win over Dundee United.
Oxley, who has established himself as Hibs’ No.1 over the past two seasons, was jeered by a section of the home support shortly after his failure to deal with James Tavernier’s cross allowed Jason Holt to score in midweek. He later redeemed himself with a save from Holt and an impressive catch from a corner kick right on the full-time whistle, which resulted in the 25-year-old being engulfed by the rest of the Hibs players.
Despite this, there remains a clamour among fans for Logan to be given the gloves for the two-pronged assault on play-off and Scottish Cup glory over the next month.
Defender McGregor, however, is adamant that Oxley has the mental strength to ride out the storm and rediscover the air of assurance that helped him keep 18 clean sheets in his first 33 games of the season.
“Mark went on a long run of clean sheets and hardly conceding any goals earlier in the season but things like that are always papered over as soon as you make a couple of mistakes,” he told the Evening News. “The big man knows he could have done better with the first goal against Rangers. Everyone could see he should have tipped it over the bar – nobody’s hiding from that fact.
“But it speaks volumes about him that he was able to keep going and be able to come out and grab that corner right at the end. To have the confidence to do that is huge for him in terms of getting back into the flow of it.
“We’re all behind him. We back our team-mates to the hilt if they make a mistake. I made a mistake against Falkirk. Ox is old enough to understand that these things happen in football. The big man doesn’t need a pep talk from me or anyone else in order to get back on it. He just does it naturally. He’s got a strong character. You need to have that to be the Hibs No.1 for two seasons. He’s also got the rest of the team around him. We all support each other.”
McGregor had sympathy with Oxley over the amount of pressure he was under to produce the goods on Wednesday following Logan’s headline-grabbing exploits at Hampden, where his two saves in the penalty shootout capped a remarkable debut.
“To follow Conrad’s performance in the semi-final would be hard for some of the best keepers in the world because he was unbelievable last Saturday,” he said. “Fans always have their opinions about who should and shouldn’t play, but the most important thing is what the gaffer thinks, and he believes in big Ox. He has been No.1 all season and we’re all right behind him.”
Several Hibs players have endured some kind of form dip over the last two months, and McGregor believes it is merely the harsh reality of being a goalkeeper or defender that their lapses, which usually result in goals being conceded, become far more notable to onlookers than those made by forwards or midfielders.
“When you’re a goalkeeper or a defender, mistakes are always highlighted a lot more but people don’t tend to notice how things broke down three or four steps before that,” he said. “They just see the last line when a goal is conceded, which means any mistake by a goalkeeper is amplified. Everybody makes mistakes though. The important thing is being able to hold your hands up, then having the courage to get back on it and know that your team-mates will support you.”