Why Hibs loaning out Kevin Dabrowski and bringing in Dillon Barnes makes sense for all parties
Barnes, Dabrowski, and Marciano can all benefit from ‘keeper situation
Before the international break, Hibs head coach Jack Ross hinted that the club could look to utilise the loan market to supplement his squad.
The Easter Road boss has made no secret of the fact he feels his playing pool is one or two players away from being a strong, well-rounded group capable of acheiving the team’s goals over the course of the season.
Goalkeeper Dillon Barnes duly arrived on a season-long loan from Queens Park Rangers on September 8 with fellow shot-stopper Kevin Dabrowski joining Dumbarton on a similar deal the same day.
The towering Polish goalkeeper made a big impression during pre-season and was on the bench for the opening six matches.
He is highly regarded by the coaching staff at Hibs and caught the eye during a pre-season friendly against Celtic in Glasgow.
However, the former Lech Poznan youngster has precious little first-team football under his belt.
A total of 18 games for Cowdenbeath during a fruitful loan spell in the early part of last season yielded six clean sheets in all competitions but beyond that the 22-year-old has been limited to reserve and development squad matches and a handful of games for Berwick Rangers and Civil Service Strollers during previous loan stints.
Joining Dumbarton on a season-long loan should provide Dabrowski with a run of first-team games in a testing environment at a higher level allowing him to accelerate his development.
There are a number of wily, experienced centre-forwards in the other League One teams such as Clyde's David Goodwillie, Conor Sammon of Falkirk, and Cove Rangers hitman Rory McAllister. Facing that sort of quality on a weekly basis will be a big boost for Dabrowski's development.
At the time of writing, the 6ft 5in shot-stopper is the only goalkeeper on the Sons’ books and as such is likely to play the bulk of their fixtures this term.
Hibs sporting director Graeme Mathie has already indicated that a loan spell with the League One side will give Dabrowski the best platform to progress and with Betfred Cup group matches against higher-league opposition in Kilmarnock and Dunfermline, the Pole will have the chance to test himself against the calibre of player he could come up against on a weekly basis as first choice at Easter Road.
WIth first-choice goalie Ofir Marciano in the final year of his contract, it makes sense for Hibs to plan for the future in the event that the Israeli internationalist moves on.
Should the 30-year-old suffer an injury or an extended period of time on the sidelines, Ross can call on the more experienced Dillon Barnes rather than having to pitch Dabrowski in at the deep end.
Barnes, too, benefits from the arrangement. He is one of three 'keepers entering the final 12 months of their deals with the London club so this season could play a big part in deciding his future.
Barnes made the bench for 13 matches last term but is yet to make a first-team appearance for Mark Warburton’s side.
Having made the move to Hibs, he will be hoping for a chance to unseat Marciano and either put himself in the shop window or convince the Loftus Road outfit to hand him a new deal next summer.
Barnes is reaching a critical point in his career. With just 30 first-team appearances to date, he will be looking for a regular run of games and will be pushing Marciano all the way. With less competition for places at Hibs than QPR, he has a great chance to try and oust Marciano.
The prospect of a hungry loanee looking to impress not just his parent club and loan team but also any potential suitors who might be watching should also bring out the best in Marciano.
The former Ashdod No.1 successfully re-took the gloves from Chris Maxwell last season after losing his starting berth to the on-loan Preston goalie and kept Adam Bogdan out of the team when the Hungarian rejoined on a short-term deal following his loan spell during the 2018/19 season.
Marciano returned from lockdown leaner and fitter according to Ross and the player himself, while his performances in the opening six matches have won him plaudits from team-mates and management alike.
Hibs are still to concede a goal from open play, with Marciano being beaten twice from the spot and once from a direct free-kick. While he hasn’t been particularly busy thanks to the improvement of his defence, when called upon he has still pulled off some fine saves.
Having Barnes snapping at his heels should prevent any complacency from sneaking into Marciano’s mindset, while the on-loan ‘keeper could get the nod for League Cup games giving him a chance to impress.
If he loses the No.1 spot at Hibs, it could also affect his international prospects and after only recently regaining first-choice status for his country, he will be desperate to hold onto it.
As for Dabrowski, Hibs fans are understandably keen to see youth given a chance, especially on the back of Josh Doig’s meteoric rise to first-team regular this term and the emergence of Jamie Gullan as third-choice striker but as a young goalkeeper, there are fewer hiding places and while Dabrowski at 22 is not a raw prospect, pitching him in too early could have a detrimental effect on his progress and career trajectory.
By sending him out on loan Hibs are ensuring that, come next summer, they have a goalkeeper capable of playing regular first-team football.
Whatever happens this term, all three ‘keepers have a big season ahead.