Hibs final word: Ofir Marciano is star of show as Adam Jackson speaks on future and Bolton speculation
Israeli goalkeeper gives defence confidence with his outstanding saves
Adam Jackson has admitted he had more reason than most to see goalkeeper Ofir Marciano pull off a stunning save to earn Hibs a hard-fought point against Motherwell.
Fir Park substitute Christy Manzinga’s powerfully struck shot already looked net-bound before it took a nick off the defender, making Marciano’s task all the more difficult.
But the Israeli internationalist threw himself high to his right to touch the ball onto the bar to, with only 11 minutes of the match remaining, deny the Lanarkshire outfit the win.
“I thought it was going in,” admitted Jackson. “It was a great save, I think I deflected it as well which made it even better, it was going in the top corner.
“It’s so reassuring to have a goalkeeper like Ofi behind us. We try our best not to let the opposition have many shots, but when you know he can pull off saves like that it makes you all the more confident in yourself that you can play aggressively and be high up.”
Although Hibs head coach Jack Ross had signalled his intention to go for the win against the Premiership’s third placed side and at a venue where the capital club had suffered a 3-0 defeat earlier in the season – deploying a 4-4-2 formation which often became a 4-2-4 as Martin Boyle and Daryl Horgan pushed down the flanks – a draw, admitted Jackson was a decent result.
The former Barnsley player said: “When you come here to play a team above you in the league and know we could have played better performance-wise then it’s a good point.
“They had plenty of possession but we kept a good shape, limited them to perhaps that one good chance towards the end. It was mainly shots from outside the box, we were organised with the midfield two (Stephane Omeonga and Joe Newell) brilliant in screening us and showing them outside, getting a clean sheet was brilliant.”
If Marciano’s save – described by Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson as “incredible” – earned Hibs a point, they might have sneaked all three despite their opponents enjoying far more territory, striker Flo Kamberi sending a diving header off the inside of Mark Gillespie’s far post, leaving the goalkeeper to enjoy a 15th clean sheet of the season.
However, it was the only moment in which they troubled the Steelmen with, as Jackson said, Omeonga and Newell working hard in the middle of the park against Motherwell’s Liam Polworth, Liam Donnelly and Allan Campbell.
“It would have been a travesty had we lost,” admitted Gillespie. “Hibs will always have a moment but the fact we kept them down to that one chance was testament to the way we defended.”
Hibs, though, were just as resolute, Ross finding his options further limited. Skipper David Gray was ruled out by illness on the day of the game, an absence which saw Tom James start his first match under the new head coach and his first since the Betfred Cup semi-final against Celtic at the beginning of November.
Jackson, who himself had started his first game since that day in facing Hamilton in midweek after Ryan Porteous was ruled out for the foreseeable future with another knee injury, said: “The squad is pretty stretched at the moment, but the boys who haven’t been playing have been champing at the bit to get a game.
“You so look forward to playing, you want to play, get the minutes in so it’s great to be getting on the pitch.”
And, insisted Jackson – who was the subject of transfer speculation linking him with a move to Bolton Wanderers – Hibs’ winter training camp on the Costa del Sol is now paying dividends.
Deflecting the obvious question regarding that topic, he said: “I was just told for the break we were going to Spain so all my thoughts were just going there and getting fit for the games coming up because we knew we had a lot of games coming up in this couple of months.
“You have to put the graft in and keep yourself in shape because you never know what is round the corner. That week away was brilliant, we worked really hard for the four or five days and everyone came back fitter for it.
“We did a lot of stuff fitness-wise and tactically and it’s working for us. We know we have the ability to win games like Saturday’s and if we get the balance right between attack and defence we will definitely get the points to push up the table.”
Motherwell (4-3-3): Gillespie; Grimshaw, Gallagher, Hartley, Carroll; Polworth, Donnelly, Campbell; Ilic (Seedorf 62), MacIver (Manzinga 73), Scott (Ndjoli 81). Substitutes not used: Carson, Tait, Mugabi, O’Hara.
Hibs (4-4-2): Marciano; James, Jackson, Hanlon, Stevenson; Boyle, Omeonga, Newell, Horgan (Gullan 77); Kamberi (Allan 65), Doidge. Substitutes not used: Bogdan, Whittaker, Hallberg, McGregor, Murray.