Ofir Marciano has been warned he’ll have to fight to reclaim the gloves at Easter Road after boss Neil Lennon confirmed Ross Laidlaw will be goalkeeper for today’s Betfred Cup semi-final against Celtic.
The Israeli internationalist lost his place in the Hibs side after Motherwell fought back from two goals down to claim a draw in the Capital, Laidlaw stepping in for his first appearance of the season as Livingston were defeated in the quarter-finals of the cup.
Laidlaw retained his place – and kept Hibs’ first clean sheet of the season against Ross County – after Lennon revealed Marciano would be missing for the following match, against Celtic in Glasgow, as it fell on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.
And Marciano missed out again last weekend after a few minor problems arose following the birth of his son. The 28-year-old will be in Lennon’s squad for the lunchtime kick-off at Hampden today – Polish teenager Kevin Dabrowski having sat on the bench for the past two games – but Laidlaw will start.
Lennon said: “Ofir’s wife wasn’t too good after the birth but thankfully she is back home now and recovering really well. He missed last week because of that. He’s a new dad and has had a lot to contend with so we are looking after him as best we can. He’s in the squad, but Ross has done great. We have two very good goalkeepers and he seems comfortable in that environment. The two of them have a challenge on their hands and that is great for us but Ofir will need to fight his way back in.”
Lennon also revealed he has slight doubts over right-back Steven Whittaker and central defender Paul Hanlon, suffering from a hip knock and a virus respectively, which will delay him naming his team.
Today will be Hibs’ sixth visit to Hampden in just 30 months and, Lennon insisted, that experience will stand them in good stead today although he conceded trying to end Celtic’s 59-game unbeaten run in domestic competition will provide the toughest of challenges despite his side running the Hoops close in a 2-2 draw only three weeks ago.
He said: “No-one has given us much of a thought. It’s been low key but we have prepared well.
“The players know, because we had a good look at them a couple of weeks ago, what we are coming up against. But they have been over the course and distance before, whether in the league or cup, and that’s why they are here, to play in big games.
“It’s important for a club like Hibs to have a good record in cups. I want to get to finals. I want to manage in finals. We have negotiated this cup very well so far this season, but now we are up against our biggest hurdle, Celtic.”