Hibs goalkeeper Ofir Marciano played through the pain barrier for weeks as the Easter Road side marked their return to the Premiership by claiming fourth place in the table, the Evening News can reveal.
The Israeli internationalist is nearing a return having undergone surgery on a finger injury during the close season. It was widely thought he’d suffered the injury while on international duty, preparing to face Argentina in a World Cup warm-up match which, ultimately, was cancelled after Palestinian protests over the game taking place in Jerusalem.
However, the News has learned Marciano was hurt during a training session at the club’s East Mains base in February at a time when fellow goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw had been ruled him out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. Laidlaw’s absence had left boss Neil Lennon with only untried Polish youngster Kevin Dabrowski as back-up for a number of weeks until the January transfer window opened. It was a situation Lennon believed he had rectifited by bringing in Scott Bain on loan from Dundee, then signing Cammy Bell on a short-term contract after Bain had left for Celtic in a deadline day merry-go-round which also saw Scott Allan arrive at Hibs from Parkhead and Simon Murray go to Dundee.
Losing Marciano in February would have left Lennon with only Bell and Dabrowski available, possibly to the end of the season. However, Marciano decided to play on with the aid of painkillers, delaying surgery until after Hibs claimed fourth spot and a place in the Europa League. The 28-year-old has missed the first three qualifying rounds but is expected to be fit by the end of this month.
In the meantime, Lennon has brought in Adam Bogdan on a season-long loan from Liverpool, only for the Hungarian internationalist to have suffered a hip injury which caused him to miss Hibs’ Premiership match against St Johnstone last weekend and the home leg of the Europa League third qualifying round against Molde a few days earlier. Bogdan, though, is expected to return to the side for tomorrow night’s return match in Norway. However, with Laidlaw proving a capable deputy in his absence and Marciano’s imminent comeback, competition for the gloves at Easter Road will be intense.