Hibs head coach Neil Lennon believes the signing of goalkeeper Scott Bain will sharpen up the performances of Easter Road No.1 Ofir Marciano.
The Israeli internationalist has been on the receiving end of some stinging criticism from Lennon this season, although he has continually reiterated his faith in a player he signed on a four-year contract only a few months ago.
However, the Hibs boss acknowledged that Marciano needed renewed competition to give his game an edge following a season-ending injury to his understudy Ross Laidlaw, Lennon moving as quickly as he could to fill the void by snapping up the out-of-favour Dundee keeper Bain.
Lennon admitted a stunning performance at Dens Park earlier in the season as he denied Hibs to earn Dundee a point had been at the forefront of his thoughts in making his move for Bain. “We’re really pleased with that one,” he said. “He owes me two points because he was excellent at Dens Park when we played them up there.
“We needed a goalkeeper in and we have got one of a really good standard. He got man of the match that day – he kept Dundee in it with some really good saves.”
Bain made his Hibs debut in an impromptu match against Dutch side Excelsior Rotterdam on Tuesday, the two clubs taking advantage of the fact they are based close to each other in the Algarve this week to arrange the game at short notice.
Marciano, however, will be between the sticks as Hibs face another team from Holland, Willem II, today but Lennon expects Bain to be pushing his first-choice goalkeeper all the way.
Lennon, who had been left with only untried 19-year-old Polish goalkeeper Kevin Dabrowski as cover for the last couple of months, said: “Scott played really well the other day, even though it was just a bounce game. He’s a good type and obviously there’s a familiarity with the game here as well.
“He’s an Edinburgh boy so he has cut down his travelling time as well. So I think he is pleased with the move.
“It will give Ofir some extra impetus knowing he has real competition. He had competition with Ross, but Ross’ injury curtailed that a bit.
“Now he has competition again and the two of them should push each other on.”
“Obviously, Ross had to go for surgery and a goalkeeper is a very specialist area, so we needed another keeper in because Kevin [Dabrowski] is still very much a development keeper.”
This week’s friendly with Excelsior also saw Liam Fontaine – the subject of interest from an unnamed English club – return to action, the central defender having been hit by a second serious ankle injury earlier in the season.
And, insisted Lennon, having the 32-year-old available again was almost like making another new signing.
He said: “Liam only had one hour of a development game and came through this one unscathed, which is a big boost for us. It’s like a new player, good pro, well respected in the dressing-room.
“He had a really bad injury the last few months of last season and then a similar injury on the other side (ligament coming away from the bone in the ankle)and had a long time not playing. It’s like having a new player in the building, giving us competition and balance at centre half.”.
However, Lennon will be without both Steven Whittaker and Brandon Barker for the Willem II match as the pair fight to be fit for the Scottish Cup derby against Hearts on Sunday week, the right-back having suffered from a pelvic problem while the on-loan Manchester City winger picked up a knee injury at Tynecastle only a few weeks ago as the Capital sides fought out a 0-0 draw.
He said: “Brandon has not trained yet. We are hoping to get him training on Monday and Steven is still feeling the effects of the injury, but we’re hoping to get him out next week as well.
“Today’s game will keep the rest of the squad ticking over in terms of football, but we’re very pleased with the way things have gone.
“We used everyone in the last game, but now we’ll be looking more towards thinking about the week after.”