David Gray’s joy at scoring his first goal in senior football has been cut short by the revelation that the Hibs vice-captain is set to miss his first game of the season.
The full-back aggravated a hamstring injury during the 3-1 win over Rangers on Monday night and is expected to play no part in Saturday’s match at home to Raith.
The ex-Manchester United trainee had passed a fitness test before kick-off at Ibrox, but having headed home Hibs’ second goal, he failed to appear for the second half and was replaced by Callum Booth.
Hibs head coach Alan Stubbs admitted Gray was a major doubt for the visit of Raith, but expressed his hope that the early withdrawal of the 26-year-old will result in a speedy return to action, with the Easter Road outfit playing their second home match in a week on October 11 when Dumbarton come calling.
Stubbs said: “We had a little concern about David before the Rangers game, but he came in early on the day and said he felt okay. He had a fitness test and we decided to give him a go.
“At half-time he wanted to carry on, but I took the decision to sub him because I didn’t want to take the risk that it might become a full blown hamstring. Hopefully that means a week to ten days rather than the four or five weeks it could have been.”
The gamble in playing Gray paid off with that goal, Stubbs admitting he was surprised to discover it was the first for the Edinburgh-born player, who had spells with Royal Antwerp, Crewe, Plymouth, Preston, Stevenage and Burton Albion before arriving back in Scotland this summer.
But the fact Gray had scored from a cross by left-back Lewis Stevenson, who also supplied the pass for the second of Jason Cummings’ goals was also, in Stubbs’ estimation, proof that the 3-5-2 formation he adopted for the League Cup win against Ross County and deployed again at Ibrox isn’t necessarily a defensive-minded option.
Accepting such a system can divide opinion, Stubbs said: “It all depends on what side of the fence you sit on and some will say it’s a five at the back.
“But we have two strikers, two midfield players with the licence to get forward as well as the two wing backs, so that’s six players with the licence to get involved in the final third.
“At Ross County, for instance, at our second goal we had five players in their box.
“David had won a tackle on the edge of our area but when Dominique Malonga headed the ball in David was there at the back post.
“We’ve looked to get more people into the box with quite a bit of success.
“The players have adapted really well which is always important and they deserve all the credit for it.”