Easter Road is set to host its biggest crowd in 23 years when Hibs tackle Hearts in tomorrow night’s Scottish Cup fifth-round replay.
The stadium has come close to being totally sold out for two previous visits from the Jambos, 20,106 attending a 2-1 win for the home side in the 2014 New Year derby while 19,433 watched last season’s cup replay which Hibs won thanks to a Jason Cummings goal.
But now the holders are highly hopeful of boasting a near full-capacity 20,421 crowd – the ground’s biggest since 20,953 watched Wayne Foster grab a dramatic late Scottish Cup winner for Hearts in February 1994 – with the final 1300 tickets selling out within an hour of being put on sale yesterday after Hibs’ season-ticket holders were given until 3pm on Saturday to buy their reserved seat.
Those available to Hibs fans on general sale had also sold out in record time and, with Hearts having seen their entire allocation of 3800 for the South Stand go within hours, the stadium is expected to be only a few short of a full house for a match which isn’t being televised.
The fact the gate will be significantly higher than last year’s replay is, according to club officials, down to their “cup top up” offer being scrapped at the beginning of the season following the restructure of the League Cup, a number of those who had taken advantage of that scheme – and so being guaranteed of having their seat reserved – not turning up on the night.
Meanwhile, Hibs head coach Neil Lennon looks likely to return Grant Holt to his starting line-up for the match, the veteran striker having started Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Raith Rovers on the bench.
Lennon, angered by his team’s ‘insipid’ display, threatened that some of those who flopped at Stark’s Park could well find themselves missing out tomorrow night. However, with central defenders Paul Hanlon and Jordon Forster out injured, along with midfielders Dylan McGeouch, Alex Harris and Danny Handling, his options appear limited unless – as he suggested – he takes the risk of throwing in youngsters, Callum Donaldson, Scott Martin and Callum Crane having all been unused substitutes at the weekend. He will, though have midfielder Andrew Shinnie available, the on-loan Birmingham City player having missed the trip across the Forth due to suspension.