Such is the nature of football that supporters tend to be more appreciative of a team’s ability to find the net rather than keeping the ball out at the opposite end.
So, as a goalkeeper, Hibernian’s Mark Oxley is pleased that his side’s new-found resilience in defence is attracting plaudits ahead of what he regards as their biggest challenge of the season when Aberdeen visit tomorrow evening.
The Leith outfit collected their sixth clean sheet from nine matches with a narrow victory over Livingston at the weekend, but former Hull City player Oxley admits he is bracing himself for a busy night in the League Cup third-round tie.
Derek McInnes’ side top the Premiership summit after winning their first eight games, including Sunday’s 3-1 victory over Hibs’ city rivals, Hearts.
Speaking at the launch of the new Topps SPFL Match Attax football trading card game, Oxley said: “We’re definitely going to have to be harder to beat than ever on Wednesday.
“We’ve been working these last few days on preparing for what they’re going to throw at us. They’re really strong going forward. A few of the lads watched their game on Sunday against Hearts and saw how good they were, so we know what to expect.
“They are not up there for no reason. They are the best team in Scotland at the moment, so we’re going to have to be at our best to get something out of the game.”
Much of the focus of late has been on head coach Alan Stubbs’ attacking options after Hibs recruited the likes of Islam Feruz, Henri Anier and Jamie Insall just before the transfer window shut, but Oxley points out that they have not neglected their duties at the back.
He added: “We’ve done well defensively in recent weeks, we’ve worked on our shape when we’ve not got the ball. It’s not just about doing well going forward. As a team I think we needed to do better without the ball. We’ve worked hard on that and you can see that in the results and performances we’ve been producing.
“Against Livingston, they threw everything at us in the last ten to 15 minutes and we found it hard to get out.
“We stuck together and the lads in front of me were brilliant. I can’t remember having too many saves to make and that shows how well we did. That’s purely down to us when we’ve not got the ball. We are more organised perhaps than we were at the start of the season, and harder to play against.
“The manager has said that’s just as important as going forward. For me it’s important, the last thing you want to see in front of you is the opposition coming forward and us not having a shape.
“The lads have been working really hard for the other teams to get through us. We’ve worked on it. It’s not just to do with me, it’s the whole team.”
Hibs gave Premiership opposition a fright in the competition last season after Dundee United needed penalties to progress and Oxley insists the Edinburgh club are desperate to give another good account of themselves. He added: “When we played Dundee United in the League Cup, they were in a similar position to Aberdeen just now, and we performed well.
“These are the games you want to play, against the likes of Aberdeen at home, because you want to be testing yourself against the best teams.
“Obviously our main aim this year is to get promoted but when games like this come along you want to take them by the scruff of the neck and try to put in a good performance.”