Neil Lennon has no concerns about asking Hibs goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw to deputise for Ofir Marciano against Falkirk on Saturday.
The Israeli has started each of the club’s last 11 matches but will miss this weekend’s Championship clash with the Bairns at Easter Road after earning a recall to his national team for the World Cup qualifier away to Albania on Saturday. Marciano picked up a knee injury at Israel’s training base yesterday but it was unclear last night if it would prevent him boarding the flight from his homeland to Tirana today.
In the No.1’s absence, Laidlaw, who started the first six competitive matches of the season prior to Marciano’s season-long loan deal from FC Ashdod being concluded, will return to the side for the first time since the 2-0 win at St Mirren in August.
Lennon insists he is entirely comfortable about pitching the 24-year-old former Raith Rovers goalkeeper into action against a Falkirk side with whom Hibs have developed a fierce rivalry in recent seasons.
“I’ve got an able deputy in Ross who did really well at the start of the season so I’m confident he can come in and do a good job for us,” the head coach told the Evening News. “He was terrific at the start of the season but we always wanted to bring Ofir in as No.1 and Ross knew that. He trains well and he’s got good presence in the goal. He had some outstanding performances when he was in the team, particularly away at Brondby and also away to Falkirk and at home to Dunfermline. I’ve no problem starting Ross – he’s ready.”
Marciano has been a steadying presence in the Hibs goal, keeping seven clean sheets in his 11 games for the club and making a particularly impressive save in last weekend’s 3-0 win at Ayr United. His call-up for the Albania game marks his first involvement with the national team since the end of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign 13 months ago. “From Ofir’s point of view, I’m happy he’s been called up but from my point of view, we’re not going to have him for the weekend,” said Lennon. “That was always likely to happen, though, because his performances merit the call-up. It’s testament to the way the team’s been playing that he’s not been too busy but anything he’s had to do, he’s dealt with well. He made a great save at 1-0 at Ayr on Saturday. He’s a great athlete who looks after himself well and trains well. He’s given the lads in front of him a lot of confidence.”
Saturday’s match in Albania will take place amid high security after an ISIS plot to attack the Israel squad was uncovered by their anti-terrorism bureau, prompting the qualifier to be moved from the the city of Shkoder closer to the capital, Tirana. Israel supporters have been urged not to attend the match.