Hibs boss Lee Johnson reveals tactical and injury reasons for leaving Paul Hanlon on bench against Motherwell

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Hibs boss Lee Johnson says the need for speed at the back and injury worries were behind his decision to pick Ryan Porteous ahead of Paul Hanlon in central defence against Motherwell.

Porteous has played in central midfield since the winter World Cup break before missing last week’s derby defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle through suspension, but he returned to his more natural centre-back position at Fir Park and even had a big hand in two of Kevin Nisbet’s three goals.

Hanlon had started the previous 18 games in a row, dating back to August 13 when he returned from knee surgery against Livingston. But Johnson said the 32-year-old was dropped to the bench for tactical and fitness reasons. Porteous lined up alongside Rocky Bushiri in a back four that included Chris Cadden and Lewis Stevenson.

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Paul Hanlon had a little bit of a nerve issue in his hamstring,” Johnson explained. “He was struggling to get to 100 per cent with his actual sprints speed. He could get up to 85 pretty comfortably.

“My philosophy is to play with a high line. My philosophy is to press the ball. My philosophy is do you want the ball? Can you handle the ball? Can you win it back? That’s it in the simplest terms. To do that, obviously, you need speed at the back and we pretty much picked our quickest back four.”

Johnson had no doubts about the commitment of Porteous, despite talks continuing in the background with Udinese over a possible transfer during the January window. “That’s why I played him,” the manager added. “I’d have played him last week, I take players on their merits in terms of their training and attitude around the place.

“The one thing about Ryan is he has an unbelievable will to win. I have to give him massive credit. I have been in that situation myself and played. I have seen a lot of players who don’t want to play pull out a little niggle or muscle injury that you can’t really prove. He’s a top lad and I like him a lot, both as a human being and a footballer.”