Derby battle: Ryan McGivern bids to beat hamstring strain

Fitness race: McGivern
Fitness race: McGivern
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HIBS star Ryan McGivern is facing a race against time to be fit for tomorrow night’s derby against Hearts at Tynecastle.

The on-loan Manchester City defender missed the Easter Road outfit’s stunning victory over SPL leaders Celtic, having suffered a hamstring problem in the wake of Hibs’ Boxing Day defeat by Ross County.

The Northern Ireland internationalist has been receiving
intensive treatment since and will continue to do so, with boss Pat Fenlon anxious to have a full squad at his disposal as Hibs travel to Gorgie hoping to make it back-to-back wins against their Capital rivals after knocking the Scottish Cup holders out of this season’s competition.

Admitting only to the 22-year-old “having a chance” of facing John McGlynn’s side, Fenlon said: “Ryan felt his hamstring a bit tight after the Ross County game. We’ve had him scanned and there’s no tear or damage, so we’ll treat him and see how he is.”

The loss of McGivern for the visit of Celtic was a blow which Hibs overcame with Lewis Stevenson slotting in once again at left back as Fenlon’s side recorded only their sixth clean sheet of the season, but with the aerial power of Hearts, particularly at set-pieces, he would no doubt welcome the return of a player for whom the derb could be one of his last matches in a green-and-white shirt as the clock ticks down on his loan deal, one which the Edinburgh club are keen to extend.

Leigh Griffiths’ 14th goal of the season ended a run of three successive home defeats for Hibs, a side which had gone into the game having won just

one of their seven previous SPL matches. It also extended Hibs’ lead over Hearts to six points, ensuring McGlynn’s players can’t overhaul their rivals in this fixture, although Easter Road skipper James McPake insisted his focus and that of his team-mates is on second place in the league rather than being fixated on their city neighbours.

Asked if he felt the win against Celtic was “a big statement to Hearts,” the rugged defender said: “I think it was a big statement to the league because people were saying ‘that’s the slump started’ or ‘it’s back to the old Hibs’.

“We knew it wasn’t. It wasn’t really about beating Celtic and getting their scalp, it was about the three points for us.

“The big thing for us was getting back to winning ways. Tynecastle is another massive game, the three or four times you play them are probably the biggest games of the season for Hibs. We are going there high on confidence and looking forward to it.”

And as for the boasts from a number of Hearts players that Hibs were in their sights, McPake retorted: “Do you think when Celtic win it’s a statement to Rangers or from Manchester United to City when they win? In my opinion that’s silly. We are winning to try to finish second in the league.

“We have admitted ourselves we are not going to finish first. People will maybe say that’s a lack of ambition, but in my opinion Celtic are by far the best team in the league. They will drop points and they will be beaten from time-to-time, but they have won the league already.

“It’s up to another teams to finish second and what a season that’s going to be for someone and we are just hoping it is us. We are not concentrating on Hearts, we are Hibs and that’s who we are concentrating on.”