Hibs boss Alan Stubbs will give Mark Oxley every chance to prove his fitness ahead of tomorrow’s Championship match against Queen of the South, revealing he’s prepared to make a last-minute decision on the goalkeeper.
Oxley was forced to quit last weekend at Cowdenbeath after suffering a back injury in the first half, leaving 19-year-old Kleton Perntreou to make his debut in a game Hibs eventually won 2-1.
Today Stubbs insisted Oxley’s condition has improved but not to the point where he can claim to be 100 per cent ready. Stubbs, however, is prepared to wait, the head coach saying: “It’s settled down a bit. It’s gong to be one of them where a decision will be made today or just before kick-off. We are going to have to wait and see but, fingers crossed, he will be okay.”
If Oxley fails to make it, Stubbs will be faced with a straight choice between the vast experience of 40-year-old goalkeeping coach Alan Combe, who has also been registered as a player, his last match having been for Morton against Raith Rovers 18 months ago, or rookie Perntreou, although he’s already insisted he would have no qualms in pitching the Albanian-born kid into a game which, if Hibs were to win by at least two goals, they would leapfrog their visitors into third place in the Championship.
Stubbs will have his fingers crossed that on-loan Hull City keeper Oxley won’t be added to a growing casualty list, midfielder Dylan McGeouch joining striker Farid El Alagui and defender Jordon Forster on the sidelines, the on-loan Celtic youngster having required an operation on the ankle injury which ruled him out of the trip to Central Park.
McGeouch had a scan earlier this week and now faces an uncertain time out with Stubbs adamant surgery was the best option rather than have the player in and out of the team. He said: “It’s nothing too major, hopefully he’s going to be back in the foreseeable future.”
Stubbs will also be without joint top scorer Dominique Malonga tomorrow, the striker away on international duty with Congo as they bid to reach the finals of the African Cup of Nations, but he remained sanguine in the face of such adversity.
He said: “Jordon is out for four to six weeks, Farid potentially for four to six months and now Dylan is going to be out for a period of time, but what I have said before is there’s no way we are going to feel sorry for ourselves. It’s about having a squad and what I have said from day one is that I wanted quality rather than quantity.
“It’s not as if I have a starting XI and then the rest. I have a starting XI who are there because they have got the jersey and the others will feel they’ve been hard done by. Now there’s an opportunity for them.”
The launch of BuyHibs to engineer a fans’ takeover of the club won’t be allowed to distract his players, Stubbs insisted, the umbrella group having claimed Hibs are “failing on and off the pitch.”
Adamant that Hibs are heading in the right direction following an indifferent start to the season following relegation, he said: “You don’t stay at the end of 120 minutes [after the Dundee United League Cup tie] and give the team a standing ovation if you don’t think there’s progress.”
He also declined to comment on the claim from BuyHibs, saying: “The most important thing for me is to focus on the team, and that’s what I’ll keep doing. There’s no point me letting what’s going on off the pitch affect us – and I won’t allow that.
“It won’t be used as an excuse whatsoever; we’ll just keep going and I know that we’re going in the right direction – that’s the most important thing.”