Paul Hanlon has backed Hibs goalkeeper Ofir Marciano to quickly forget the blunder which gifted Rangers the winning goal and has left the Easter Road outfit six points behind in the race for second place in the Premiership.
Neil Lennon insisted Alfredo Morelos’ goal, coming only five minutes after Josh Windass had cancelled out Lewis Stevenson’s earlier opener for the Capital side, was “preventable” and also questioned his goalkeeper’s role at the equaliser.
Marciano, however, will play in today’s showdown with Aberdeen at Pittodrie, adamant he has no qualms about his temperament.
And Hanlon believes he and his team-mates will have Marciano to thank for plenty of stunning saves this season, citing the “wonder stop” he made in the 2-1 win over Dundee a few weeks ago. The defender said: “Ofir is fine. He’s experienced, he’s played international football and you know if you are a goalkeeper if you make a mistake nine times out of ten it’s going to end in a goal.
“You need to be thick skinned and have a strong mentality, he has that. It’s fine margins, he has saved us plenty of times through the year and he’ll do that again I’m sure.”
Hanlon admitted he could have done better to prevent Morelos scoring, the Colombian hitman twisting and turning him before hammering the ball between Marciano and his near post.
“I thought I got a bit too tight to him,” confessed the 27-year-old, “And when he’s chopped the ball I’ve not got enough time to move my feet because I’m too close to him.
“You can pick three or four things with any goal to be honest, we just need to pick ourselves up and go again. We’ve not been too bad defensively if you look at the season as a whole. But that’s the thing, when you step up a league you get punished for any mistake you make, especially against a team like Rangers.”
Hibs travel to the Granite City for the first time in almost four years, a late Willo Flood goal earning the Dons the points back then and, admitted Hanlon, the decision of Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes to rebuff the overtures of Rangers appears to have given everyone at Pittodrie a lift.
He said: “I think knowing he is staying makes things easier for their players. I’ve been through that a few times, there’s a change of manager and a sense of uncertainty that surrounds the club, so they willl be delighted that their manager has stayed and will believe they can kick on.
“It’s only natural the boys would be speaking about it, some will be worried the manager might leave because you are playing every week, a couple might be thinking ‘I wouldn’t mind, I’m not getting a game’.
“You just don’t know what is going to happen and you try to focus as much as possible on the task at hand, but obviously there is that doubt hanging over the club. They will be delighted that is gone now and they can concentrate on what they have built over the last few years.”
And that, insisted Hanlon, was a good side with a lot of quality while Pittodrie always represents a tough venue. He said: “They have done great over the last few years, have been really consistent in competing towards the top end of the table so coming in after three years out of the top league, they are probably the benchmark in how to be consistent week, week-out.”
Having said that, Hanlon was adamant he and his team-mates will be seeking all three points this afternoon, insistent confidence has not been dented by that midweek defeat by Rangers.
He said: “The last two results for us have probably seen us drift off the pace a little bit so it is even more important that we get three points and stay in that race.
“Even though we haven’t got the points we wanted in the last couple of games, the boys are still full of confidence, the spirit is high and the gaffer is happy with our performances.
“Wednesday was frustrating, five minutes have cost us and when you give a team two goals it becomes easy for them to sit back and get bodies behind the ball and that’s what Rangers did. It’s disappointing, but we can’t worry about that for long, there are too many big games coming up.”