Hibs boss Pat Fenlon today revealed it’s “touch-and-go” as to whether top scorer Leigh Griffiths will win his fitness battle ahead of Saturday’s SPL clash with Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
The Easter Road hitman was said to be making “steady progress” having aggravated an ankle injury which has been troubling him for a number of weeks early in the second half of Hibs’ Scottish Cup derby triumph over Hearts.
Although many feared the worst when they saw the 22-year-old being carried off on a stretcher, the on-loan Wolves star returned to the pitch on the final whistle to join his team-mates in celebrating David Wotherspoon’s deflected winner.
Today, though, while disclosing Griffiths’ injury wasn’t as bad as first feared, Fenlon admitted he won’t be making a decision until the last minute on whether the former Livingston and Dundee ace will travel although the player enjoys a reputation of being a quick healer.
Fenlon said: “It’s not as bad as first feared, he caught and twisted his ankle and there is a bit of swelling. Leigh has been receiving treatment and is making steady progress but I am not too sure about the weekend.
“We will see how he is over the next couple of days, he has a chance but there is also a chance he won’t make it. The one thing we won’t do, however, is take any risks. If he isn’t right, he won’t play.”
The absence of Griffiths – who coincidentally missed the 2-2 draw between Hibs and
Caley in Edinburgh earlier in the season – would be an obvious blow for Fenlon but he insisted he had plenty of options with Eoin Doyle, Shefki Kuqi and teenagers Ross Caldwell and Danny Handling all vying for places up-front.
And it would add to a growing Easter Road casualty list with skipper James McPake and fellow defender Tim Clancy having missed Hibs’ last five and six matches respectively while midfielder Gary Deegan has been out since the beginning of October after having his jaw broken in an early morning street attack.
Like Griffiths, all three are reported to be making “steady progress,” McPake from a back problem and Clancy an operation on a stomach muscle injury, but Fenlon has been unwilling to put a timescale on a return for any of them.
The loss of Griffiths would stretch further what is already a small squad, a quartet of teenagers having formed the majority of Fenlon’s bench in recent weeks and make what the manager acknowledges is a difficult match at Inverness even tougher.
Caley lie in third place, two points behind Hibs, and with the incentive of knowing they can leapfrog the Edinburgh club – which has always found a trip to the Highlands testing – into second place with a victory.
Fenlon added: “Inverness are flying, they are probably the form team at the moment. Their last two league games have been against Celtic and Aberdeen and they won them both which is an achievement in itself. We know what we are going to. They don’t lose too many at home but everyone at Easter Road is in good form
after last weekend.”