Hibs boss Pat Fenlon has pinpointed consistency of team selection as the secret behind the Easter Road outfit’s surprise charge up the SPL table.
Fenlon has made just two changes to his team – one of them enforced by the ankle knock which kept Leigh Griffiths out of the draw with Inverness Caley – over the course of the last seven matches during which Hibs briefly hit top spot.
But while he’d undoubtedly have been planning to say “same again” for the long trip to face Ross County in Dingwall after the current international break, Fenlon will be forced into a major change with midfield enforcer Gary Deegan out for a prolonged period after sustaining a broken jaw in an unprovoked attack outside a George Street nightspot.
Deegan was punched in the face by a stranger in the early hours of Sunday morning after a night out with team-mates following Hibs’ 3-0 win over Dundee. The 25-year-old underwent an operation yesterday but a club spokesman confirmed: “It is not clear how long Gary will be out for, but it will be a number of weeks.”
The absence of the former Coventry City star will come as a major blow to Hibs, with the Irish star having been credited with adding some much required steel in the middle of the park, where Jorge Claros has flourished this season.
But Fenlon does have Tom Taiwo, who, ironically, replaced Deegan for the final 16 minutes of the win against Dundee, and Lewis Stevenson, who has been unable to recapture a place in the starting line-up after suffering a broken toe in the first derby of the season, vying for the jersey.
Fenlon said: “Last year the likes of St Johnstone, Motherwell and Dundee United picked nearly the same team week in, week out. The plus from our point-of-view is that we have been able to bring Ryan in and Tom off the bench. We have got some real quality and we have a little bit of strength in depth.”
Meanwhile Fenlon’s latest signing, goalkeeper Sean
Murdoch, was due to play in today’s Under-20 game against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.