Hibs boss Neil Lennon is weighing up whether to pitch Ofir Marciano into Saturday’s William Hill Scottish Cup tie against Bonnyrigg Rose or stick with his stand-in Ross Laidlaw.
Israeli internationalist Marciano has missed the past six matches after undergoing knee surgery so Laidlaw stepped in to keep three clean sheets as the club negotiated that run of games unbeaten to re-establish themselves at the top of the Championship with a six-point lead over title rivals Dundee United.
Marciano returned to take a seat on the bench at Dumbarton as Finnish Under-21 internationalist Otso Virtanen cut short his Hibs contract to move back to his homeland but Lennon was left impressed by Laidlaw’s performance on the day, describing it as “terrific”.
In particular, he highlighted a save made by Laidlaw at the feet of his former Raith Rovers team-mate Lewis Vaughan in what he reckoned was a “big moment” in the game which was won by Kris Commons’ first-half strike.
Lennon made it clear he regarded Marciano as his No.1 choice when the 27-year-old arrived on a season-long loan and after he suffered his initial knee injury while on international duty in November he had no hesitation in returning him to the first team after just one game out.
Marciano, though, has now been absent since the beginning of December while Laidlaw has deputised and, as Hibs begin their defence of the Scottish Cup at Tynecastle against the East Super League champions on Saturday, Lennon has to judge if this is the moment he should re-take the gloves.
He said: “I thought Ross was terrific at Dumbarton, particularly in the second half. When he came out and smothered at their boy’s feet it was a big moment in the game.
“I thought he handled everything Dumbarton threw at him. It was another clean sheet which shows very good consistency. We have two good goalkeepers and, what you want if you are to make progress, are goalkeepers who make good saves.”
To date, Marciano and Laidlaw have each played almost as many games as the other but 24-year-old Laidlaw has not been beating a path to Lennon’s door to plead his case.
He said: “I’ve just tried to keep my head down and work hard. It’s up to the manager. When I get the opportunity, I’ve just tried to do the best I can. I got a few games at the start of the season and now Ofir has been injured which has given me another chance in goal.
“We get on really well and we are pally outside the club as well. We have a good working relationship and have a lot of respect for each other. We know how hard a position it is, so we enjoy working with each other.”