Dillon Barnes speaks on life at Hibs, Ofir Marciano and Lee Wallace advice
Being a reserve goalkeeper is one of the trickiest jobs in football, but the smile on Dillon Barnes’ face suggests he is enjoying his role at Hibs.
The 24-year-old Londoner arrived at Easter Road on a season-long loan deal from Queens Park Rangers in September, knowing full well that he would be playing second fiddle to in-form Hibs No.1 Ofir Marciano.
However, he was also aware that the Israeli would miss the club’s Betfred Cup ties due to them coinciding with international dates. The former Colchester stopper has therefore started four matches for the Capital outfit and so far boasts an 100 per cent record.
The last of that quartet of matches came on Sunday, when Hibs defeated Dundee 4-1 at home to top Group B and set up a last-16 clash with … Dundee! Barnes, however, probably won’t mind facing the Dees again, although he knows that his spot as “cup keeper” is far from assured.
Taking his chance
"Since I have come in I have just trained as hard as I can,” said Barnes, who revealed he has not been told he exclusively has the gloves for Betfred Cup ties.
“Obviously Ofir is off on international duty so that leaves me here and it’s good to get the opportunity, really.
“We’re playing the same team again in the next round but you always face new challenges. It would be good to get involved."
A rough ride
Hibs have done well to pick up a maximum haul from their pool matches. Due to the congested football calendar, international duty, injury, suspension and Covid-19 self-isolation, manager Jack Ross has at times been without Marciano, Paul McGinn, Paul Hanlon, Ryan Porteous, Lewis Stevenson, Josh Doig, Alex Gogic, Kyle Magennis, Joe Newell, Jamie Murphy, Drey Wright and Christian Doidge. While every opponent was beneath them in the league period, Brora Rangers, Forfar Athletic, Cove Rangers and Dundee all posed their own challenges.
“It has been a good cup run by the boys so far,” continued Barnes. “We have worked hard in all of the games.
“Some of them have been hard, we’ve had some hard surfaces to play on, but the boys keep picking up the points.
“I’m loving it, I’m enjoying every minute of it. And it’s always good to get wins as well. That’s a bonus.”
No qualms about move
Barnes did not have to think too hard about switching the English capital for the Scottish equivalent. Behind Joe Lumley and Liam Kelly in the pecking order at Loftus Road, moving north was an opportunity to get more minutes under his belt and broaden his horizons on and off the pitch.
“I’m loving it,” said Barnes. “I haven’t experienced the full Edinburgh yet because of lockdown, but it’s a lovely city, lovely people, and I am enjoying it.
“This is a massive club so getting the opportunity to come up here, it’s different scenery as well, a different country.
“It’s a good life experience as well as a football experience.
“My first two games here have been live on TV so it’s a great experience for me.”
Barnes was able to draw on the advice of some peers more familiar with Scotland when the prospect of a move to Hibs came up. His QPR manager Mark Warburton was at Rangers, while fellow stopper Kelly played at Livingston and Lee Wallace is from Edinburgh. Another goalkeeper at QPR, Seny Dieng, also spent half-a-season on loan at Dundee. All the references were positive.
“Liam’s down there and Lee Wallace and the gaffer were up here as well,” said Barnes.
“They just told me it’s a great country, a great city, and it’s good to be up here.
“I spoke to Seny Dieng as well and he said to me to get up here, it’s a great league and a great experience.
“The league here is a very good level, a really good tempo to the game, great players.
Rocky and Dillon
His route to more regular first-team action is, for now, blocked by Marciano. The Israeli goalkeeper has upped his game considerably since lockdown, clocking up half-a-dozen league clean sheets. Barnes is savvy enough to know that unless Marciano has a big dip in form or gets injured, he will spend more time on the bench than on the pitch. He did his case no harm, however, with a solid performance against Dundee. He is a goalkeeper who is very quick off his line, eager to snuff out danger at the first opportunity, and he had little chance with Christie Elliott’s goal on Sunday. Ross has been pleased with Barnes’ contribution.
The two goalkeepers get along well. “He’s a top man, a great guy and a great goalkeeper,” Barnes said of Marciano.
“We push each other every day, we both work as hard as we can to keep one another on our toes.
“All I can do is work hard and hope the manager is fair with me, but ultimately it’s up to me to perform on the pitch and in training.”
Fox in the box
Media duties complete, Barnes thanked the gaggle of journalists and walked off to the stadium exit. However, he had one more job to do. The 6ft 4ins stopper is no stranger to foxes in the box, but on this occasion there was a real one in the penalty box and not a metaphorical striker, trying to steal a strip from the goalmouth. Like everything so far, Barnes took it in his stride, rescuing the garment from the fox, posing for pictures with it, beaming smiles. One happy Hibee.