Hibs plan closed-doors match for James McPake

James McPake

James McPake

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Hibs boss Pat Fenlon’s hopes of seeing skipper James McPake and Tim Clancy make a return to action in tomorrow night’s Under-20 match with Rangers have been dashed after the game was postponed.

Fenlon had pencilled in the pair to begin their comebacks against the Ibrox club’s youngsters, but has been forced to hastily arrange a closed-doors match to give McPake, Clancy and new signing Abdellah 
Zoubir game time.

However, Fenlon could now also use Saturday’s East of Scotland clash with Berwick Rangers Reserves at Shielfield Park to give the two defenders a public airing after Kevin Thomson, suspended for Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Ross County, played in Hibs’ 9-0 victory over 
Hawick Royal Albert in that competition at the weekend.

McPake, who hasn’t played since suffering a back spasm early in the second leg of the Europa League tie against Malmo, and Clancy, who hasn’t played at all this season as he recovers from a groin operation, have resumed full training with Fenlon’s squad. The Irish manager, who has seen his options stretched by a succession of injuries, is keen to have them involved again as quickly as possible.

With his first team idle this weekend as the Scottish Premiership makes way for Scotland’s latest World Cup qualifying matches, Fenlon could see the East of Scotland game as the ideal opportunity to ease them back. Thomson, sent off in the 1-1 draw with Dundee United, faced a month without a game, but was eager to keep himself ticking over and so joined James McDonaugh’s young team which trounced Hawick at East Mains.

Head of academy coaching McDonaugh said: “It was great that Kevin played, he is an excellent professional and he performed really well. He was keen to get some game time and hopefully he found the match beneficial.

“We probably won’t get the opportunity to field too many players who have been capped by Scotland in our East of Scotland team this season but full credit to Kevin, the group really enjoyed playing alongside him and he helped them along in the game.”

Now McPake and Clancy could follow the same route, Fenlon saying: “One of the reasons for us going into that league was to make sure we have another opportunity to play players coming back from injury, suspension or whatever.

“It gives us an option to get everyone some game time.”