Stick or twist? Hibs boss Terry Butcher today admitted that’s the question he’s wrestling with as he ponders his line-up for Saturday’s Premiership clash against Kilmarnock.
A patched-up Easter Road side ended a five-match winless run by beating Ross County for a third time, a victory which lifted Butcher’s side to within a point of the top six.
However, with Liam Craig available again after sitting out the visit of County through suspension, Butcher has to decide whether to change a winning team, mindful of the fact the club skipper scored twice last time out at Rugby Park as they came from behind to notch up their first win of the season.
However, Sam Stanton and Tom Taiwo, last weekend’s partnership in central midfield, both produced impressive performances in addition to a goal apiece, leaving Butcher swithering as to whether Craig, Hibs’ top scorer with nine goals, should make an immediate return.
Scott Robertson, Kevin Thomson and Owain Tudur Jones remain sidelined through injury.
“Do you change a winning team,” asked Butcher, “or do you keep it the same? Do you bring back players – Liam is available – and change it around or whatever? It’s a nice position to be in because it means we have options and we have competition for places. It’s a cliché to say I’ve got a selection headache. It’s never a headache when you are picking a team for me because it’s nice to have good options and good players that are hungry to play.”
Having notched up three straight wins against Ross County, a side which was regarded very much as a bogey team by Hibs fans until only a few months ago, Butcher is now aiming for another “hat-trick,” a third victory over Killie.
His players rate their 3-0 victory against Allan Johnston’s outfit in the final game of 2013 as one of their best of the season.
As pleasing as those memories may be though, Butcher insisted they counted for nothing, particularly with the January transfer window having transformed the make-up of many sides. Killie brought back Alexei Eremenko to Ayrshire for a second spell in January, the Finnish internationalist having an impact as he scored against Dundee United last weekend.
Killie marksman Kris Boyd took his tally for the season to 16 during that match although they ended up on the losing side. However, the sense of grievance over that narrow defeat allied to the threat of Boyd and Eremenko makes this weekend’s encounter a tough one, according to Butcher.
He said: “Killie will feel aggrieved not to have taken anything from the United game. They are a side which, if you allow them to play will play.
“With Eremenko back they certainly carry more of a goal-scoring threat with both him and Boyd scoring against United. They also have good pace on the flanks.”