Dillon Barnes backed to take his Hibs chance against Rangers

Ibrox is not an easy place to make your first Scottish Premiership start. Just ask Ryan Porteous.
Dillon Barnes comes on for Ofir Marciano during Hibs' win over St Mirren.Dillon Barnes comes on for Ofir Marciano during Hibs' win over St Mirren.
Dillon Barnes comes on for Ofir Marciano during Hibs' win over St Mirren.

The Hibs defender was given the nod against Rangers on February 3, 2018 by then boss Neil Lennon in a crucial match in the race for second place. Porteous, then just 19, put in an excellent display as the Easter Road outfit won 2-1 in Govan.

The two teams meet on Boxing Day on league duty and Hibs are almost certain to have another key man making his first top-tier start.

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Dillon Barnes, a 24-year-old goalkeeper who is on a season-long loan from QPR, has only started Betfred Cup ties. However, he was needed as a substitute for the last 30 minutes in Wednesday’s 1-0 win over St Mirren after regular No.1 Ofir Marciano tweaked his hamstring. The Israeli is highly doubtful for the clash with the undefeated league leaders, meaning Barnes will be handed the gloves from the off.

It is a baptism of fire for the Englishman – even without supporters at Ibrox – but Porteous has no qualms about having Barnes behind him.

"First 15 minutes were a bit of a blur,” recalled Porteous of that match in 2018. “I was all over the place, then I settled into the game. I always quite like the big games and I think Dillon will be the same. He'll be more than fine. He's a really good goalie playing at a really good level.

"For me, I remember looking and going 'oh God', I was a bit taken aback by it, especially because it's probably the best atmosphere in Scotland. Now with no crowd, it might settle him a little bit.

"We're lucky enough to have two really good goalies. Dillon's been playing at a really good level down in England and we are really fortunate to have him as our second choice just now. Things can change, if he comes in and Ofir's not fit for Saturday, it maybe gives the manager a little bit of a headache in the future if he comes in and does well. I made my first league start at Ibrox as well so I can relate to it. It will be a tough task for him but I don't see why he can't come in and thrive.”

Barnes has impressed Porteous and his peers at Hibs’ training ground. "Listen, I see him in training in every day and he's a really good goalie,” continued Porteous. “He's got real quality with the ball at his feet as well. He's confident in his ability.

"He had a few Betfred games and I think he would've been disappointed not to play the last Betfred games, but obviously it was the decision that the manager made. Ofir's played week in, week out, but it's his chance now. Hopefully he can give the manager a headache now for his sake.”

Hibs travel west with morale high, the last Scottish team to take points off Rangers. “As a whole team, we are going there with confidence and belief that we can get something,” Porteous added. “We know what we did to them at the start of the season [2-2 home draw] – we were really disappointed not to take three points and we will be going there with the same attitude."

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