Hibs set to be without six stars for season opener

Suspended: Rowan Vine

Suspended: Rowan Vine

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Hibs are set to head into Sunday’s SPFL Premiership opener against Motherwell with half of Pat Fenlon’s first team out through injury or suspension, the Evening News can reveal today.

And Fenlon is facing a defensive crisis with three first choice players on the casualty list – club captain James McPake, Tim Clancy and Ryan McGivern – with his resources further stretched by the fact teenager Jordon Forster faces a one-match ban which has been hanging over him since the end of last season.

Summer arrival Rowan Vine will also be sidelined for the visit of the team which finished second in the old SPL, the forward having incurred a one-game suspension thanks to the bookings he picked up last season while playing for St Johnstone.

Paul Cairney is another on the injured list, the midfielder seen leaving Easter Road following the 7-0 hammering
by Malmo in the Europa League on crutches having suffered a suspected chipped bone in his right ankle, which was encased in plaster.

A scan has since revealed the former Partick Thistle star, an unused substitute in Malmo, has suffered ligament damage and is facing up to ten weeks out. Fenlon admitted McPake, who missed the end of last season, including the Scottish Cup final against Celtic with another back problem, could be “out for a while” after being forced to quit the home match against Malmo after just 24 minutes as he felt his back stiffen once again. Clancy and McGivern missed both legs of the second qualifying round against the Swedes, the former still recovering from groin surgery while the latter sustained a knee injury in Hibs’ final warm-up game with Raith Rovers.

Northern Ireland star McGivern would appear to be the more likely to face Motherwell and could partner Paul Hanlon in central defence - with Fraser Mullen and Lewis Stevenson filling the full back berths. Bradley Donaldson, a possible alternative, has tweeted he needs a scan on a knee problem.

New striker James Collins will compensate for the loss of Vine, the 22-year-old likely to be given an immediate debut.