Hibs were today in a sweat over the fitness of top scorer Garry O’Connor ahead of Wednesday’s crucial clash against Aberdeen in their increasingly desperate battle to beat the drop.
O’Connor has netted 15 times this season, including a three-goal burst as Hibs built up a comfortable seven-point cushion on relegation rivals Dunfermline and reached the final of the Scottish Cup.
But he missed yesterday’s defeat by St Mirren through illness as Hibs’ lead over the Pars was cut to just three points with Jim Jefferies’ side, 3-0 winners over the Dons at the weekend, due at Easter Road next Monday.
Before then Hibs travel to Pittodrie on Wednesday as Dunfermline head for Inverness with the fight to avoid relegation from the SPL now looking certain to go down to the very last day of the season.
Boss Pat Fenlon would dearly love to have the experience of 28-year-old O’Connor against a Dons side smarting from that heavy defeat at East End Park and determined to wreak revenge on the team which beat them in the semi-final of the Cup.
However, Fenlon admitted he doesn’t know if O’Connor will be fit. He said: “Garry had been sick for a couple of days but I do not know if he will be ready for Wednesday. We couild do with him being fit. We’ll check on him today but we’ll have to wait and see.”
Despite a second successive defeat – Hibs were also beaten 1-0 by Kilmarnock in the first of their five post-split matches – Fenlon defiantly insisted his side can win their fight to remain in the top flight.
He said: “I was disappointed with the result but pleased with the performance, I thought we did enough to win the game, it was a bit like last week, our goalkeeper didn’t have a save to make.
Hibs will have to do so in Aberdeen, however, without midfielder Lewis Stevenson, sent off in added-on time for a second bookable offence, referee Stephen Finnie having similarly punished Saints defender Marc McAusland with 13 minutes remaining.
The Hibs boss was angered at Finnie’s decision not to award Hibs a penalty when Saints Dougie Imrie challenged Leigh Griffiths, suggesting had it been another player involved a spot-kick would have arisen.
Fenlon was left raging seven days earlier when referee Craig Thomson booked Griffiths for a “dive” against Kilmarnock, a sixth yellow card of the season ruling him out of the Pars showdown.
While television pictures later showed Imrie appeared to have got the ball, Fenlon commented: “Maybe if it had been someone else we would have got it.”