Ryan Porteous may have made the immediate headlines after Hibs’ 2-2 draw with Rangers for a small spat with Steven Gerrard and James Tavernier, but all that noise should not take away from another strong performance by the 21-year-old defender.
Porteous is clearly a disliked man from a Rangers perspective. His cause was not helped last season by a shocking challenge on Borna Barisic when 3-0 down and he was rightly condemned for such behaviour.
On Sunday, the Ibrox camp felt he should have picked up more than a yellow card for a clash with Alfredo Morelos – a caution, to be honest, seemed sufficient punishment – and then Rangers manager Gerrard claimed Porteous had called his captain Tavernier “a bad loser”.
Post-match, Porteous shrugged it all off, saying what happens on the pitch stays on the pitch.
The Scotland Under-21 internationalist is probably in the most consistent form of his career right now. He has played every minute of Hibs’ season and has been a vital member of a defence that has kept four clean sheets in eight games, only shipping five goals.
His aggressive, all-action defending remains, but there are strong signs of maturity and leadership coming through. Crucially, he sets high standards for himself and others. “I think you’re always disappointed to lose two goals in the manner we did,” said Porteous. “It’s not been like us this season, one at the back post when we’ve defended so well and then the second one I think we’re too deep. We need to stay high and trust ourselves defensively.
“I don’t think we should be conceding two goals to anybody at home.”
That last quote highlights the standards Porteous, and the rest of the defence, are setting for themselves. Hibs did a lot of work in pre-season addressing last term’s damaging habit of conceding soft goals and it is paying off.
“We’ve been working on the back three/four quite a lot and when you play with the same players week in week out you get to know what they do well and what they don’t do well so you can cover them,” explained Porteous. “Just working on the set-up with the gaffer and John Potter is important.”
The platform created by Porteous et al is allowing the team to play with more confidence. They can attack knowing there is a solid base to work from. Now they need to take that style and mindset to Celtic Park this Sunday, when they take on the champions away from home.
“People have to remember that we are up there as well,” added Porteous. “I am not saying that we are going to challenge for this and that, but we are up there on merit, through keeping clean sheets and scoring goals. We said we were going to cause Rangers problems and I think we did.
“We know that Parkhead will be a different ball game. Celtic’s record there is fantastic. But we have the players in forward areas to hurt them. Celtic do too. It will be a difficult task – probably a little bit more difficult based on the fact that it is at Parkhead. But we will go there with every bit of belief.”
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