Rowan Vine is the leading contender to replace cup-tied striker Paul Heffernan against Stranraer in the third round of the League Cup tonight, but Hibs boss Pat Fenlon intends to keep changes to a minimum as he affords the League One strugglers his utmost respect.
On-form Heffernan, who has netted in his last two games, is ineligible for the Easter Road clash after coming on as a substitute in Kilmarnock’s defeat by Hamilton in the last round.
Vine, who endured a difficult start to his Hibs career, has dropped to the bench in the past two games, but is expected to earn a recall tonight.
There will be a host of other fringe men hoping to get the nod, but Fenlon, having seen his much-changed team crash out against then Second Division side Queen of the South at the first hurdle last season, is in no mood to take any chances against a Stranraer team who, despite toiling in the league, stunned Premiership club Ross County in the last round. The manager, who has had the League One outfit watched three times, said: “They beat Ross County in the last round – which we haven’t done – so we know that it is going to be a real difficult task for us. They have nothing to lose coming here and we have got to make sure we reach the levels that we did [against St Mirren] at the weekend.
“We have had them watched in their last three games, they have got some good players and they work tremendously hard.
“There will maybe be one or two changes, there won’t be wholesale changes. It’s a cup competition that you want to get a good run in. It helps from a confidence point of view and it helps from a financial point of view. You’ve got to make sure that you treat it right to get yourself through into the next round.”
After a disappointing start to their season, Hibs have been unbeaten in their last five matches and, on Saturday, won their first home match since March.
Fenlon was delighted with his side’s performance in the 2-0 victory over St Mirren and believes that the result has been a huge shot in the arm for his players, who have come in for some stick in recent weeks.
“I am pleased for the players and the supporters because we have all taken a fair bit of flack,” he conceded.
Meanwhile, Kevin Thomson admitted that a successful run in the competition would be like a dream come true for him and his Hibs-supporting family.
The midfielder already has two winners’ medals from this competition, from 2008 and 2010 with Rangers, and he would love to make it a hat-trick with his boyhood club, having left Easter Road just two months before Hibs won the cup in 2007.
Thomson said: “It would be amazing. Even if I am not playing, my dad comes along faithfully every week to support the boys. It is the same for me. Even when I was down the road, the first result that I wanted to see was the Hibees.
“Everyone has got a team and the Hibees were mine. So, to get to a final with them and get a winner’s medal would be a special day for me.”