Hibs are set to make the trip to Raith Rovers on Saturday with only two fit senior centre-backs even though an injury suffered by Jordon Forster is not as bad as first suspected.
Liam Fontaine and Darren McGregor are almost certain to start at the heart of the defence at Stark’s Park, with Forster definitely out and Paul Hanlon unlikely to be deemed fit enough for a return to the squad after undergoing surgery on a minor pelvic problem recently.
Forster was given a rare start in Sunday’s Scottish Cup tie with Hearts at Tynecastle, but was forced off early in the second half after suffering a hamstring injury.
Neil Lennon said in the aftermath of the goalless derby draw that he feared the 23-year-old could be sidelined for six weeks. However, medical checks have since revealed that the defender, who was a commanding presence alongside McGregor in the first half, is likely only to be out for around three weeks, which should mean he will be available in early March.
Hanlon hasn’t played since the victory over Dundee United six weeks ago after niggling pain afflicted him during matches over the festive period. He is nearing a return to action but it is unlikely he will be ready to play any part against Raith Rovers. It remains to be seen if he will be rushed back for the Scottish Cup replay against Hearts next Wednesday.
When it emerged that Hanlon would face a spell on the sidelines, Hibs looked into the possibility of recruiting an additional centre-back in January, but nothing materialised. If any misfortune were to befall either McGregor or Fontaine in the upcoming games, holding midfielder Marvin Bartley or right-back David Gray would be the likeliest candidates to cover at centre-back. Academy prospect Kevin Waugh could also be considered, while teenage left-back Callum Crane has been tested in central defence in recent development league matches. Highly-rated youngster Ryan Porteous is currently on loan at Edinburgh City.