Adam Bogdan settled into his seat on the Hibs bench, resigned to spending another 90 minutes as little more than an onlooker after injury cost him his place in Neil Lennon’s side.
The on-loan Liverpool goalkeeper had been forced to pull out of the Ladbrokes Premiership clash at Hamilton after sustaining a groin problem during the warm-up, ending Ofir Marciano’s long wait for the chance to play following surgery on a damaged finger.
A clean sheet as Hibs ended a winless run of seven matches ensured the Israeli internationalist kept his place for the visit of Celtic, and he produced a second shut-out against the champions to strengthen his grip on the gloves.
But in one of those curious twists of fate, Bogdan was handed an unexpected return, Marciano suffering an early calf strain in gathering an innocuous cross from Rangers skipper James Tavernier on Wednesday and cutting a disconsolate figure as he was led from the pitch after just 14 minutes.
It was an opportunity Bogdan grabbed with both hands, the 31-year-old ensuring a third consecutive shut-out for Lennon’s team in a game in which Rangers had an astonishing 27 shots at goal. However, the Hungarian brought off a string of saves, the most notable being two from the Ibrox club’s top scorer Alfredo Morelos.
Now Bogdan is hoping his heroics mean that he can make the goalkeeping spot his own although, obviously, that is a decision for Lennon to make when Marciano is again fit.
As he eyed a fourth successive victory for Hibs in tomorrow’s match against Livingston, Bogdan said: “I was very disappointed, of course, but that’s the nature of the game. Once, for whatever reason, you give an opportunity to someone else and he takes it, then you are vulnerable.
“I was disappointed but not angry. I just carried on. Sometimes you get your chance to get back in, it’s rare, but it happens. When you have the opportunity to play and if you do well you are likely to keep it [the jersey]. If you do not do well or the team doesn’t do well then ultimately you are vulnerable to change. But at the moment I am happy, I did what I could and hopefully I can do the same tomorrow, the game after that and the next game and the next game.”
Bogdan admitted it wasn’t ideal to be called on in such circumstances, adding: “It’s not easy, you have this big heartbeat and you have to warm up. Sometimes you do the best warm up possible and you don’t have a good game so the main thing is just to keep focused and if you do that you can come in and make saves.
“Given I hadn’t started, I was really pleased with how things turned out. We kept a clean sheet, we defended with our bodies in the box. There were a few too many chances for my liking, or anyone’s liking, but at the end of the day we kept a clean sheet, the third in a row and we can go into tomorrow’s game confident but knowing we need to do more to win.”
Bogdan agreed that four points from back-to-back matches against both sides of the Old Firm was a decent return, he and his team-mates enjoying a little satisfaction in having proved they weren’t a spent force.
He said: “That run was hard to take. We were trying hard to get out of it and it just didn’t work out, especially the home games when we drew at home to Dundee and St Mirren. They were like defeats.”
Now, he insisted, Hibs have to build on this week’s results knowing a win tomorrow will lift them above Livingston and back towards the top six, although he conceded that it will be easier said than done against a team which has more than held it’s own since returning to the top flight. However, if they can do that, Bogdan believes Lennon’s players have shown they are capable of once again challenging at the top end of the table.
He said: “We know Celtic were probably tired after their Europa League game the previous Thursday, but still the way we played was excellent.
“We played how we should all the time and if you take that game then, definitely, we should be competing at the top.
“Sometimes we leave ourselves too exposed, sometimes we get away with it, sometimes we don’t, but I’d like to think our real face is what we had on Sunday and the way we defended inside our box [against Rangers] is our real face as well.
“In every game there’s a lot of positives and some negatives, but to have two clean sheets against the two biggest clubs in the country, that’s a very big positive and we can go into tomorrow feeling positive.
“We didn’t have the results we wanted but we came out of it and now we have to make sure we stay concentrated and turn in the performances that will allow us to climb up the table.
“We’ve had three good results in a row but that’s gone. The next game is now the most important and they are a tough team.” performances that will allow us to climb up the table.
“We’ve had three good results in a row but that’s gone. The next game is now the most important and they are a tough team.”