Hibs facing defensive headache if McGregor loses appeal

Darren McGregor, left, reacts with disbelief to his red card

Darren McGregor, left, reacts with disbelief to his red card

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Hibs will wait anxiously to learn Darren McGregor’s fate as they face a potential defender shortage for Saturday’s much-hyped showdown with Morton at Cappielow.

The 31-year-old’s appeal against the red card he was shown in last week’s highly-charged clash with the Greenock side at Easter Road will be heard at Hampden on Thursday. The Edinburgh club are confident they can convince a three-man panel that McGregor did not headbutt Kudus Oyenuga, even though the Morton striker has controversially avoided being cited for simulation by the SFA’s compliance officer, Tony McGlennan.

If the appeal is successful, the stand-in Hibs captain will be free to play at Cappielow. If not, he will miss Saturday’s game and the home match with Queen of the South a week later. The latter scenario would leave Hibs stretched defensively, with centre-backs Jordon Forster and Liam Fontaine sidelined by shoulder and ankle injuries respectively. Paul Hanlon is doubtful for the trip to Cappielow after a nerve problem which had troubled him in the latter stages of his recovery from a recent pelvic operation flared up in the warm-up at East End Park on Saturday and caused him to withdraw from the match against Dunfermline.

Right-back David Gray returned to the squad at the weekend after missing the home games against Falkirk and Morton with a hamstring injury, but the captain was given only one minute of action at the end of the 1-1 with the Pars, so it remains to be seen if he is deemed fit enough to start in a high-octane match like this Saturday’s. In addition, Callum Crane, who has been a regular on the bench this season, has been removed from the equation after tearing his ankle ligament in a development league match against Kilmarnock a fortnight ago. The 21-year-old left-back, who can also fill in at centre-back, is sidelined until next season.

As things stand, McGregor, Efe Ambrose, Lewis Stevenson and Brian McLean, who has played only one match in the last four months, are the only full-fit defenders available to head coach Neil Lennon for Saturday’s match as Hibs look to take a significant step towards securing the Championship title.