Rested duo set to return to Hibs starting XI

David Gray, and Dominique Malonga, below, both picked up knocks last weekend

David Gray, and Dominique Malonga, below, both picked up knocks last weekend

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Hibs boss Alan Stubbs today revealed both David Gray and Dominique Malonga are set to start against Cowdenbeath tomorrow having been rested for the 2-1 midweek victory over Livingston.

Stubbs took the decision to leave Gray out of his plans entirely while Malonga was an unused substitute as the Easter Road outfit extended their advantage over Rangers in the race for second place in the Championship to five points. The pair had picked up knocks in last Sunday’s Scottish Cup win against Berwick Rangers.

A stretcher was actually 
called for Gray in the dying minutes of that game after he was sent crashing to the turf only for the right back to complete the match while Malonga, who had earlier been 
replaced by Franck Dja Djedje, was seen hobbling with an ice pack strapped to his left knee.

However, Stubbs today insisted that with three games in just six days and – apart from striker Farid El Alagui – a full squad at his disposal, his decision on Gray and Malonga had been purely precautionary.

The head coach said: “I just wanted to try and look after them especially after they’d picked up knocks on Sunday.

“At the time, they probably looked worse than they were but they are important players in the team and we need to try to keep everybody as fresh as possible.

“They were fine, they could easily have played against Livingston and they wanted to play, but we have some big games coming up. That’s the whole purpose of having a strong and healthy squad. When you need to freshen things up then you have to be able to do that without it having any effect on the team.”

Keith Watson and Martin Boyle, cup-tied for the visit of Berwick, featured for the full 90 minutes against Livingston as did club skipper Liam Craig and Dja Djedje. Stubbs adopted a 3-5-2 formation for the game which required a last-minute winner from Dja Djedje to clinch all three points although the head coach insisted Hibs could have enjoyed a far more comfortable victory had they taken their chances.

Now he’s looking for them to extend their winning run to seven games at Central Park tomorrow to keep the heat on Rangers ahead of the Glasgow side’s visit to Easter Road on Sunday week, Hibs having come from eight points behind their rivals only a few weeks ago to lie five points ahead albeit with two more games played.

Stubbs, who had said he’d rather be in Rangers’ position than Hibs’ after watching his side win 2-0 at Ibrox only a few weeks ago, admitted that situation had now changed with the Govan outfit having dropped six precious points in drawing with Falkirk, Cowdenbeath and Queen of the South in their last three outings.

He said: “It’s changed because of their results, not anything else. We’ve gone about our own business and put pressure on the teams around us by winning games and picking up maximum points. When you do that it does play with the opposition. We’re five points ahead, we both play tomorrow and, if we win, then that could play on their minds when they play in midweek [against Alloa Athletic].

Meanwhile, Hibs today revealed the move towards fan ownership has passed a milestone with five per cent of shares now owned by supporters just a few weeks after the club’s plan to offer them the opportunity to buy up to 51 per cent of shares was launched.

Welcoming the news, chief executive Leeann Dempster said: “We all know this would be more like a marathon than a sprint, but we have been very encouraged by the start made. Ordinary fans already own more than five per cent – a greater percentage than the vast majority of other clubs in Scotland.”

Hibernian Supporters Limited, the vehicle through which fans can buy shares, are expected to purchase a further tranche of shares next weekend while the Hibs Supporters Association are said to be preparing to buy a “significant” number.