Neil Lennon today confirmed goalkeeper Ofir Marciano is poised to make his long-awaited Hibs debut against Morton on Saturday after clearing the final immigration hurdle by securing a work permit.
The 26-year-old Israeli internationalist was immediately pitched into action, playing in the “mini derby” as Hibs and Hearts Under-20s shared a 2-2 draw at the new Oriam sports complex.
And that, insisted Lennon, will stand the on-loan FC Ashdod player in good stead as he prepares for his first Scottish Championship match. After enduring a three-week delay in getting clearance to play Marciano, Lennon said: “We’re glad to have got all that out of the way.
“It’s been a bit frustrating for Ofir, it’s been a game of patience but George Craig [Hibs head of football operations] has been working really hard in the background to get it over the line.”
Lennon has already stated that Marciano, who has ten caps to his name, will be his No.1, but has been delighted in his absence by the performances of Ross Laidlaw as Hibs have begun their bid for promotion with three straight wins.
He said: “There’s a good chance Ofir will start on Saturday but Ross has done very, very well. Ofir has been brought in as my No.1 but I’m very pleased with Ross and he can be pleased with the way he has coped. He was brought in to challenge and that’s exactly what he is doing.”
Having been made to wait, Lennon believed it was important Marciano got a game under his belt as quickly as possible, the Hibs boss present to witness not only the Israeli’s first public appearance for the club but the return after a knee injury of midfielder Fraser Fyvie who also played the full 90 minutes.
He said: “Ofir needed a game. The standard of it was good, the tempo was good and you had two sets of players having a right go with lots of quality on both sides and Ofir played well in the main.”
And although he has yet to experience a Scottish style game, Lennon believes Marciano knows what is in store. He said: “He went to the Champions League match between Celtic and Happoel Be’er Sheeva last week and that would have given him an insight into the intensity, the tempo and the physicality of our game.
“We’ve also done some work on the training ground on that side of things, so it won’t be a big surprise for him.”
Although defender Liam Fontaine will be out for two to three weeks with the calf strain which prevented him travelling to Paisley last weekend, Lennon admitted that, with Danny Handling his only long-term injury, he’s happy with how his squad is shaping up with Andrew Shinnie and Brian Graham the latest arrivals likely to be followed by “a little bit more business” before the transfer window shuts.
Lennon revealed he’s spoken to one-time Motherwell midfielder Tom Hateley, currently a free agent, but said: “The ball is in his court. I know he is speaking to other clubs and that’s fine, I don’t have a problem with that. We’ll have to wait and see.”
“But the squad is looking a lot stronger. Fraser has been out since the Motherwell game in pre-season so it’s great to have him back. He played well in the wee derby. He was a bit unsure about playing the 90 but we said to play as long as he needed or wanted, but he’ll benefit from the full 90.
“I was pleased with what I had on the bench against St Mirren because in previous weeks we’ve looked a bit light. Brian and Andrew have come in to be part of the squad but they obviously see themselves as first-team starters.”