Hibs boss Pat Fenlon today admitted his squad is becoming threadbare as the Easter Road club’s injury list continues to increase.
Fenlon has been without skipper James McPake, fellow defender Tim Clancy and midfielder Gary Deegan for weeks, but now he has been hit with two further blows ahead of tomorrow’s SPL clash with Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Top scorer Leigh Griffiths is rated highly doubtful for the trip to the Highlands for a match which sees second play third, with the incentive for Terry Butcher’s players being the knowledge a win will take them above Hibs in the table.
And 18-year-old Bradley Donaldson, who has been on the bench for the past six matches to provide defensive cover in the absence of McPake and Clancy, has been ruled out after picking up a shoulder injury as Hibs Under-20s clocked up a fourth straight league win by beating Dundee at Dens Park earlier in the week.
While Fenlon hopes McPake, Clancy and Deegan, recovering from a back problem, a groin operation and a broken jaw respectively, will be back in first team action within a couple of weeks, he agreed that in the short term his options had become somewhat limited.
He said: “We do not have a big squad so obviously having those three out, the possibility of Leigh missing and losing young Bradley as well means, particularly defensively, we are very stretched at the moment.
“But that means other people get the opportunity. We are coming into an important period and we don’t want to rush the boys back although hopefully, over the next couple of weeks, they will do so and that will be a big help.
“Having said that, the boys that have come in and played have been fantastic and it doesn’t mean the boys coming back will necessarily go straight back into the team.”
Of more pressing concern, of course, for Fenlon, is tomorrow’s match against an outfit he believes are the current form team in the SPL, an opinion borne out by the fact Caley have lost just one of their last nine league matches, a record which saw them complete a clean sweep of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League monthly awards – Terry Butcher, Billy McKay and Aaron Doran taking the manager, player and young player prizes respectively.
Butcher’s side are also the top scorers in the league with 31 goals so far while McKay has scored ten times including four in his last three matches, statistics of which Fenlon is well aware although he pointed out that Hibs themselves have proved no slouches when it comes to scoring this season and insisting that even without Griffiths he has options up front in Eoin Doyle, Shefki Kuqi, Ross Caldwell and Danny Handling.
Fenlon said: “We will approach it like every other game, look to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses then deal with the strengths and exploit the weaknesses.
“We’ve had a couple of decent results [victories against St Johnstone and Hearts] and backing that up with another win is important. We’ve got a bit of momentum and it’s about keeping that going.”