Hibs boss Alan Stubbs today confirmed he expects to be without Jordon Forster for up to six weeks after the defender suffered a suspected broken foot.
With fellow stopper Liam Fontaine battling a thigh injury, Stubbs has just four fit defenders as he begins to prepare for the second Edinburgh derby of the season. Hibs, now five games unbeaten following their 4-0 crushing of Livingston, aim to become the first side to beat Capital rivals and runaway Championship leaders Hearts.
However, Stubbs fully expects on-loan Hull City player Mark Oxley to line up against the Jambos on Sunday despite reports that Tigers boss Steve Bruce will recall the goalkeeper following Steve Harper’s arm injury in the 2-2 draw with Arsenal which, with Scotland star Allan McGregor also sidelined, leaves him with only Eldin Jakupovic ahead of Saturday’s match against Liverpool.
Of Bruce’s plans, Stubbs said: “He can’t do it until January so that’s not something to worry about just now.”
More pressing, though, is the shortage of defenders Stubbs now has to contend with, Callum Booth having been drafted into central defence to partner Paul Hanlon who was switched from left to right. The pair were flanked by David Gray and Lewis Stevenson on Saturday evening as goals from Dominique Malonga, Danny Handling, Dylan McGeouch and Paul Heffernan racked up Hibs’ biggest win of the season so far.
It was a victory which took them into the play-off places for the first time since the opening day of the season when, coincidentally, they were 2-1 winners over Livingston.
Although he is still awaiting a definitive diagnosis of Forster’s injury, head coach Stubbs revealed: “Liam definitely has the better chance of being fit for Sunday. It looks like Jordon has done his fifth metatarsal and is going to be out for the best part of four to six weeks.”
While frustrated by the “innocuous” way in which the injury which brought 21-year-old Forster’s ever-present run to an end was sustained, Stubbs remained philosophical, saying: “It’s one of those things, we just have to get on with it. Basically we have four fit defenders but the performance against Livingston was great.
“Playing on the right was no problem for Paul. I thought he cruised through the game and apart from one or two little crosses I thought they [the back four] looked very comfortable.”
Stubbs, though, is well aware that Hearts, having scored 31 goals in their ten league matches, will provide a far greater threat than Livingston, but it’s a challenge he is relishing.
He said: “I played in a lot of derbies and form means nothing going into them. It’s about who will be the better team on the day.
“Five games unbeaten for me is a real positive, it puts us in the picture. But I’m not concerned about where we are at this moment, I am more concerned to make sure we are there come April or May.
“We have had a horrendous start as everyone keeps reminding me, but we are fourth so we are not doing too badly.”