Terry Butcher believes he will be spoiled for choice when Hibs face Raith Rovers in the Scottish Cup after injuries and suspension left his squad threadbare for the visit of champions Celtic.
The absence of key figures such as Paul Hanlon, Ryan McGivern and Scott Robertson saw the Easter Road boss field an unfamiliar looking team against the Hoops with Sam Stanton making his full debut and Alex Harris starting a match for the first time since the opening day of the season. In addition, Abdellah Zoubir and Tom Taiwo started for the first time since October and November respectively.
But with a two-week break between games – Hibs are idle this weekend as Inverness Caley take on Hearts in the semi-final of the League Cup – Butcher insisted his players will be refreshed and bolstered not only by the return of those absentees but, hopefully, “one or two” new arrivals.
Although he has been frustrated so far during the transfer window in his bid to strengthen his squad, Butcher remains confident he’ll do so before Friday night’s deadline.
While stressing that those players who ran Celtic a lot closer than the 4-0 scoreline would suggest had “done themselves a power of good”, Butcher admitted he was looking forward to having plenty of options for the cup tie.
He said: “The break is good in that if we can get one or two players in, allied to the players coming back from injury and having Scott free from suspension, it gives us great competition for places. We’ve also got the chance to get good training under our belts without the pressure of a game this weekend.”
Butcher revealed that Hanlon, who has been battling a thigh strain, came close to making the Celtic game. He said: “Paul was very close to playing on the Friday because he had done everything that was asked of him by Davie Henderson [Hibs chief physio]. We felt if there was no reaction we’d consider playing him but there was a slight reaction. In a way, it was better to find out at that point but it meant we had to rip that team up and look again.
“Then Owain Tudur Jones, who was in the team, tweaked a hamstring in training on Saturday and he was out. I ended up not naming the team until Sunday.”
Meanwhile, Easter Road will next month host its first Friday night game since Scottish football first piloted playing on the last day of the working week two seasons ago. Hibs’ Premiership clash with Dundee United, scheduled for Saturday, March 1, has been brought forward to the previous day, Friday, February 28, with a 7.45pm kick-off for live television.
• Hibs Under-20s’ top-of-the-table clash against Rangers, due to take place at Livingston tonight, has been switched to Murray Park (6pm).