Hibees ready for ‘wounded animal’ Celtic

James McDonaugh with Maurice Malpas
James McDonaugh with Maurice Malpas
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Hibs Under-20s manager James McDonaugh predicts Celtic will be like a “wounded animal” ahead of their top-of-the-table clash at Cappielow, Greenock, tonight (7pm).

The young Hibees defeated their Glasgow opponents in last month’s encounter at Livingston’s Energy Assests Arena, with Jason Cummings’ strike maintaining hopes of winning the league title.

The two sides go into tonight’s crunch clash level on 53 points at the summit. Hibs sit top due to a superior goal difference, although Celtic have played two games fewer than the Easter Road club.

McDonaugh, who admits he won’t know his starting XI until later today due to a couple of injury concerns, said: “There is nothing to fear for us, so I hope all my players are looking forward to tonight. But on the other side of that, I think Celtic will be a wee bit of a wounded animal with a point to prove because we’ve won the last three games and that doesn’t happen to Celtic.

“I’m firmly focused on the players’ development so the league position is just a bonus really, but we’re trying our best to push Celtic as much as we can. Tonight is probably a must-win, but we’re happy to be in the mix.”

McDonaugh’s players are in the midst of a busy schedule. They took a point in a 3-3 draw with Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Tuesday as a goal from Cummings and a Danny Handling brace gave the men in green-and-white a 3-2 lead, only for William Gros’ late effort to ensure a share of the spoils.

“I thought we played really well against Kilmarnock,” McDonaugh added, “but we could have defended better. To concede three goals is not something we’re happy about, but the creativity was good and we passed the ball well.”