Hibs’ hopes of clinching second place in the Championship table – and avoiding an unwanted round of play-off matches – were dealt a double blow today when it was revealed that both Scott Allan and Keith Watson are to be hit by suspensions.
Playmaker Allan picked up his sixth yellow card of the season, deemed guilty of “simulation” by referee Calum Murray as he went down under a challenge from Stephen McKenna in Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat by Queen of the South.
Watson was booked for a late foul on Queens winger Danny Carmichael. It was the first yellow card shown to the defender since he joined Hibs on loan from Dundee United at the end of January but he’d already been cautioned in five of the Tannadice club’s Premiership matches. Those bookings remained on Watson’s record despite swapping leagues and, like Allan, he will now miss the rearranged Championship match away to Livingston on Wednesday, April 22.
The absence of Watson in particular will cause Alan Stubbs a problem with right back David Gray out for weeks with a hamstring injury.
The head coach already knew Watson – along with Martin Boyle who is on loan from Dundee – was ineligible to play in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Falkirk on Saturday week as the pair were cup-tied.
But now he’ll also have to find a replacement right back for the trip to Livingston with Jordon Forster, who hasn’t started a match since mid-October, the 21-year-old having suffered a broken foot and then an operation to remove his appendix, a strong candidate.
Stubbs’ more immediate problem, however, is to halt a run of three successive defeats, which have put a huge question mark against Hibs’ bid to finish runners-up to Hearts, when he takes his side to face Dumbarton on Wednesday night.
Rangers moved three points ahead in second spot with a game in hand following their 2-1 home win over the Jambos yesterday, and Stubbs insisted now is the time for calm rather than start hitting the panic button. “It’s not ideal,” he said of his side’s record over the past couple of weeks, “But, I’ve said to the players that sometimes when you get close to something you want to achieve that can be most nervous time.
“That’s all we need to concentrate on. It’s not a time to start ranting and raving. This is the time when you see the team spirit, the camaraderie amongst them, a time when you need to be together.”
Hibs, though, are unlikely to have Dylan McGeouch back for the trip to Dumbarton Football Stadium, the midfielder having missed the defeat by Queens after having an injection in his ankle. The hope is that the on-loan Celtic player will be back training midweek with the obvious hope he’ll be ready to face Hearts on Sunday in the final Edinburgh derby of the season.