Watching Ofir Marciano withstand the whipping wind and driving rain of Dumfries as he helped the ten men of Hibernian claim an attritional draw, “blessed” was not the first word that sprung to mind. This was the type of afternoon to be endured rather than enjoyed.
However, the Israeli international has been afforded a new sense of perspective following a campaign in which he went from his country’s number one to a reluctant spectator.
Marciano made just six appearances during a loan spell at Royal Mouscron from FC Ashdod last season and is adamant a miserable stint in Belgium has only made him stronger and more determined to succeed.
His performances bear out that fact, with four clean sheets from his five matches so far. He was also required to make a super late save from Queen of the South’s Dale Hilson to ensure his side returned to Edinburgh with a point on Saturday.
“I didn’t play much last season and to be starting every week for Hibs is great,” said a revitalised Marciano. “Not playing means I appreciate the chance I have been given here. Every training session, every game, I am thankful for the opportunity. I can play and feel blessed for that. Football players want to play but [last season] was something I had to accept. I am sure that experience has made me stronger.
“It wasn’t easy on Saturday but, as a footballer, you have to adapt to any conditions and get on with it. It’s not easy to play in weather like that, but we did our best.”
Marciano made a vital save after just 90 seconds against Queens, racing from his goalmouth to smother a Hilson shot following a threaded Stephen Dobbie pass.
Hibs’ response was swift and should have heralded the opener, David Gray finding Jason Cummings with a sumptuous cross, only for the Scotland Under-21 striker to head straight at Lee Robinson.
Gray nodded his own passable opportunity wide of the post before Brian Graham fizzed a drive off target from the edge of the box. It was becoming an all-too familiar tale of missed chances for Neil Lennon’s charges.
That feeling was only exacerbated after the break when a John McGinn corner kick fell to Cummings a mere three yards from goal. However, the youngster could not sort out his feet to unleash a meaningful shot.
Hibs’ momentum was quelled somewhat when Lewis Stevenson was dismissed after 55 minutes, receiving a second yellow card for hauling down Hilson, having been cautioned before the interval for crashing through ex-Hearts man Jamie Hamill.
McGinn stung the palms of Robinson with a ferocious shot from distance, before the last word was given to Marciano with a splendid save to tip a Hilson shot from eight yards wide of the post.
“We just let people talk [about Hibs being title favourites] but, behind closed doors, we are quietly confident,” said Queens defender Hamill. “Hopefully we can maintain our good form from the start of the season. If we can keep that up, then we will be in with a fighting chance.”