SHEFKI KUQI is set to feature in tomorrow’s clash with Inverness Caley at the expense of Hibs’ injured top scorer Leigh Griffiths - a match which could take the Easter Road side to the top of the SPL table.
Griffiths was forced to limp out of the action 12 minutes from time having scored twice as Pat Fenlon’s side defeated Kilmarnock to stretch their unbeaten run to five matches, the on-loan Wolves hitman having aggravated an ankle injury picked up in training.
Finnish veteran Kuqi watched Griffiths take his goals tally for the season to five from the stand having failed to make Fenlon’s squad of 18 on the day but the 35-year-old is now set to lead the line should Griffiths miss out against Caley.
Former Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich Town, Blackburn Rovers, Fulham and Newcastle United star Kuqi has made just one start – the shock Scottish Communities League Cup exit at the hands of Second Division Queen of the South – since his surprise arrival in Edinburgh, admitting at the time he wasn’t fully match fit.
Kuqi played as an over-age player as Hibs’ Under-20 side drew with Dunfermline earlier in the week and, Fenlon revealed, he’s been undergoing a rigorous training schedule. The Hibs boss said: “We took him out of the squad last week and worked him on Saturday morning, gave him a break on Sunday and worked him on Monday,
“He played on Tuesday, had a day off on Wednesday, trrained yesterday and will train today. Hopefully Leigh will be okay but he has not trained and is struggling a little bit to be honest. He has rocked his ankle. We’ll give him a chance today and if he is not right then we will change it, if he is then he will play.”
With SPL leaders Motherwell not playing Aberdeen at Pittodrie until Sunday, victory tomorrow would propel Hibs to the head of the table but Fenlon warned that Terry Butcher’s side will prove difficult opponents even if they have managed to pick up just four points from their opening six matches.
He said: “It would be fantastic [to go top], it would be great for the players. They have worked hard to get themselves into the position they are in. I am sure Inverness will want to come here and pick up the points for their own reasons as well.
“They have been very unlucky in a lot of their games, they have not been far away from winning some of the ones they have lost. They are a difficult team to play against. Their manager has them playing a system that is hard to play against. But they also have some real quality in the team.
“They have what I want here, to play both sides of the game, to pass it and play when you can but to be very difficult to play against at times as well.”
Meawnhile Fenlon has revealed Killie goalkeeper Kyle Letheren has apologised to Paul Cairney after accusing the midfielder of diving to win the penalty which clinched the points for Hibs last weekend as the Easter Road outfit hit out at Rugby Park boss Kenny Shiels for continuing to claim the Hibs star went down too easily under Ryan O’Leary’s challenge.
In a statement released by the Capital club they insisted everyone connected with Kilmarnock should be “embarrassed” by Shiels’ words, both immediately after the match and repeated in his weekly newspaper column. Hibs are adamant video and television evidence proves beyond doubt referee Steven McLean had made the right call while Fenlon insisted it was time his opposite number stopped digging an even bigger hole for himself over the matter.