Paul Hanlon today hailed an “unbelievable” save by goalkeeper Ofir Marciano as the match-winning moment as Hibs clocked up a fourth successive Premiership victory.
The Easter Road defender admitted he and his team-mates were beginning to tire as a punishing schedule of five games in two weeks began to show when Israeli internationalist Marciano got down to somehow push aside a netbound shot from Dundee’s Faissal El Bakhtaoui.
With an hour gone, the score was level, Marcus Haber having cancelled out Martin Boyle’s early goal. However, only three minutes later, Simon Murray struck for the 13th time this season to put Hibs only two points behind second-placed Aberdeen in the table.
But, insisted Hanlon, there was no underestimating just how important Marciano’s save had been. He said: “Towards the end of the first half, we were looking a bit leggy, a bit off the pace.
“Then Ofir makes that unbelievable save that keeps us in the match and from there we went from strength to strength and could have made things a bit easier for ourselves towards the end.”
Already hit by injuries to Darren McGregor, Liam Fontaine, Danny Swanson and Steven Whittaker, Hibs lost Dylan McGeouch, skipper David Gray and Brandon Barker by half-time but, revealed Hanlon, boss Neil Lennon warned his players he wouldn’t let them use tiredness as an excuse should they be beaten.
“He told us it was more a mental thing than anything else,” said Hanlon. “We all believed that and went out in the second half and gave our all.”
Lennon raised a few eyebrows before the season got underway when he said his side were capable of challenging for second place but, claimed Hanlon, Hibs have proved him right.
The 27-year-old said: “We haven’t really spoken about targets because we have had so many games in a short space of time. It’s been a case of next game, recover, next game.
“The gaffer will probably sit back and look at it now and assess where he wants to go but I think a club the size of Hibs has to be challenging at the top end. We’ve had a look at all the other teams and there’s no reason why not.”
Hanlon admitted a break of two weeks had probably come at just the right time for his team-mates although there will be no rest for him after being called up for the first time to the Scotland squad for Thursday’s friendly against the Netherlands at Pittodrie.
He said: “I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m looking forward to it. I think you probably get more recognition and credit for your performances on the back of four wins than maybe doing well but drawing.
“I feel great. I’m going into every game full of confidence. Going away with Scotland is a chance for me to go and impress, to give it my best shot and hopefully catch the eye and be in future squads.
“There are top players there who have played at the top level so I just want to try to learn and improve. Hopefully, I can get some game time.”