Terry Butcher: Alex Harris can be key player for Hibs

Alex Harris and Kevin Thomson in the derby

Alex Harris and Kevin Thomson in the derby

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Terry Butcher today insisted Alex Harris’ brief appearance in last Sunday’s defeat to Hearts was enough to convince him the teenager can help keep Hibs clear of the relegation play-off spot.

The 19-year-old replaced Duncan Watmore with 20 minutes remaining at Tynecastle and, despite the Easter Road side conceding a second goal in the closing minutes of the match, the Hibs boss was impressed by the willingness of Harris to attack the opposition.

The youngster spent the first five months of the campaign sidelined with a broken ankle that required surgery to insert metal pins, but made his comeback as a late substitute against Aberdeen in January.

Butcher, though, took the decision to rest the confidence-sapped Harris and, prior to the derby, his last appearance in Butcher’s matchday squad had come in the 3-3 draw with Motherwell on March 8. The manager also singled out praise for Kevin Thomson who, like Harris, made an appearance from the subs’ bench in the 2-0 loss.

“It was nice when Boozy [Harris] came on and played the way he did,” Butcher said. “He’s getting back to what he was before so that’s really exciting. And Kevin wants to win and loves the club and doesn’t like losing against Hearts.

“We’ve got to be together the next six matches because they are extremely vital. The players know what the situation is. We’re in a good position at the moment, we’ve got four out of the last six matches at home, three out of the last five against opposition we’ve beaten before so our target is still seventh spot.

“We’re all aware of the second bottom and the significance of it, but at the same time we’re in a good position. However, we do need to pick up points. To do just that we have to raise our levels of performance”

Butcher disclosed he had received a text message during the week from assistant referee Ally Ross apologising for disallowing Jordan Forster’s headed goal in the derby, a decision that ultimately proved costly as Hibs went in search of an equaliser.

However, he stressed his only focus is on Monday night’s opponents Aberdeen, but appreciated the gesture. “That was tremendous. I don’t think I’ve ever had that before. It’s very nice, very good,” he said of the apology.

“When you lose a derby match, you do plunge to the depths but you’re hopeful and confident that’s the lowest point you’ll be.

“The way up for us is to go out and do well against Aberdeen and put them under pressure and see if we can win at home. I’m not bothered about the impact on other teams, it’s the impact it will have on us.

“Winning that match would be tremendous. Going into the split and then the final five matches, we’ve got a two-week break after Monday so we’ve got a lot of time to prepare and get ourselves ready.

“We’re six points ahead of St Mirren and that could close today, but we’ve still got lots of points to play for.”