Hibs have hit double trouble for their next Premiership match with both goalkeeper Ofir Marciano and midfielder John McGinn suspended for the visit of Partick Thistle a week on Saturday.
Marciano was shown the red card for handling the ball outside his penalty area only 13 minutes into the Capital club’s match with St Johnstone on Friday night, giving Cammy Bell his first appearance for Hibs. However, the Israeli internationalist will now serve an automatic one-match ban and he’ll be joined sitting in the stand to watch Neil Lennon’s side take on the Jags by McGinn.
The Scotland midfielder picked up his 12th yellow card in the league for a late trip on former Hibs player David Wotherspoon at McDiarmid Park where five Saints players were booked by referee John Beaton. As a result, McGinn will now serve a two-match suspension having sat out one game after picking up his sixth yellow, missing – coincidentally – Hibs’ 1-0 win over the Jags at Firhill at the beginning of December.
McGinn had been treading a disciplinary tightrope for a number of weeks, at one point running the risk of being banned for this month’s derby against Hearts. Now he’ll not only miss playing Partick but the visit of Hamilton a few days later although he’ll be free to play the final game before the split, the long journey to face relegation-threatened Ross County.
Meanwhile, Saints striker Steven MacLean admitted the challenge by his team-mate Blair Alston which left Lennon furiously accusing the former Falkirk man of endangering McGinn’s welfare could, as the Hibs boss claimed, have brought a red card.
“It was cynical, way beyond the pale,” insisted Lennon of Alston’s lunge as McGinn broke forward. “It was a red card all day long. He made no attempt to play the ball.”
MacLean conceded Lennon had a point, saying: “Sometimes you might get a red for one of those. It didn’t look great, to be fair, but I think he didn’t mean to properly do him. I think he was just trying to trip him up and got a yellow.
“You can say it’s a good foul so I think that’s what he was trying to do, to be honest.”
Lennon’s accusation that Saints were cynical as they indulged in “shocking, disgraceful tackles” in his estimation also brought a measure of agreement from MacLean, who said: “He is probably right.
“I think we probably were cynical at times. But I think we have been soft at times as well. I think sometimes you get away with them and sometimes you don’t. We were maybe a bit fortunate at times, I don’t know. It’s hard to say.”
However, MacLean, who doesn’t believe Saints are yet free from the threat of relegation, insisted that while disappointed not to have taken all three points from a Hibs side which played a man short for 77 minutes after Marciano was sent off, a draw was fair enough given Efe Ambrose had put the Capital side ahead with less than two minutes played.
Chris Kane grabbed a late equaliser for the Perth outfit, leaving MacLean to reflect: “In the end, we probably had enough chances to get three points but when you are 1-0 down with just a few minutes to go, you tend to take a point.
“We spoke at half-time about how Hibs would stay well organised and hard to beat so I thought we did well to wear them down and take our chance.”