Hibs kid Ryan Porteous has revealed the secret behind his taming of £8million-rated Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos, saying that he treated his surprise inclusion in the Hibs team “like a development league game”.
The 19-year-old turned in a man-of-the-match performance in his first Premiership start as a patched-up Hibs side won at Ibrox for the second time this season, forming part of a makeshift back-three alongside Efe Ambrose and Lewis Stevenson after regular centre-halves Paul Hanlon and Darren McGregor were ruled out by injury.
Although he admitted to having a sleepless night having been told by head coach Neil Lennon that he’d be playing, Porteous insisted the thought of facing Colombian hitman Morelos, the subject of a multi-million bid by Chinese side Beijing Renhe last week, didn’t worry him in the slightest.
Porteous said: “I just tried to treat it like a development game, that I did not know who I was up against and to just play my normal game and not get distracted by how good he or anyone else is.”
Porteous was making his first start for Lennon’s side since playing against Ayr United in the Betfred Cup more than five months ago and with Liam Fontaine having departed for Ross County on transfer-deadline day, the youngster was delighted Lennon had shown enough trust in him to face a Rangers side hoping to take advantage of Premiership leaders Celtic’s surprise defeat by Kilmarnock earlier in the day.
He said: “The gaffer had pulled me aside and told me there was a chance I would have to start and to be ready. It didn’t really sink in until the night before the game. I didn’t get a great deal of sleep. But it was a great experience, I thought I did all right. The manager has shown a lot of faith in the young boys at the club and you just want to pay him back. I hope I did.”
Porteous was realistic enough to admit he’s still behind the likes of McGregor, Hanlon and Ambrose in Lennon’s plans but, he admitted, he hopes he’s given him some food for thought.
He said: “Darren, Paul and Efe are brilliant defenders, so it’s hard to push them out. One performance might not do that, but perhaps it will give him something to think about in his team selection.”
Having closed the gap on third-placed Rangers to two points – John McGinn’s first-half strike and Jamie Maclaren’s penalty after Sean Goss had equalised for the Ibrox club earning a 2-1 win – Porteous insisted there was no reason why he and his team-mates shouldn’t have second placed Aberdeen in their sights. The Dons are Hibs’ next opponents on February 17 at Easter Road.
The defender said: “There’s been a lot of games where we have not taken our chances and not got what we deserved. We had a few chances against Rangers, not a lot, but took them. We’ve also conceded sloppy goals in games but, again, we defended well.”
After a busy transfer deadline day, Porteous believes Hibs have strengthened for the run-in, adding: “We have brought in good players and lost good players, but we’ve definitely brought in a high calibre of player in Scott Allan.
“He is capable of winning a game on his own. We have improved the squad.”