Hibs defender Paul Hanlon faces fitness race for cup final

Paul Hanlon has emerged as a major injury concern ahead of Hibs' League Cup final clash against Ross County after the defender left Dumbarton on crutches and with his right knee in a brace.

Paul Hanlon is carried off the field by team-mates Kevin Thomson and Liam Fontaine
Paul Hanlon is carried off the field by team-mates Kevin Thomson and Liam Fontaine

Hanlon was left hobbling in the first half after he clashed with former Hearts striker Christian Nade, scorer of Dumbarton’s second goal in their 3-2 win. However, it is understood the injury which is causing worry occurred in a separate incident.

It resulted in the 26-year-old being replaced by Liam Fontaine for the final 28 minutes of the match and, at the final whistle, he was seen being carried by his fellow defender and Kevin Thomson from the dugouts on the opposite side of the pitch to the dressing-room.

As such, Hanlon will be ruled out of tomorrow’s Championship match against Queen of the South in Dumfries and, while he is one of three Hibs players suspended for Sunday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final with Inverness Caley, head coach Alan Stubbs will be hoping such a key figure can recover in time for the Hampden outing the following week.

Stubbs said: “We’re not too sure. Paul had an impact on his thigh but we do not know if the swelling is coming from his thigh into his knee or whether it’s his knee.

“We’ll have to see how it settles down and assess it. If it is swelling in the knee we will have to assess it further and get a scan to see the extent of the injury.”

Striker Anthony Stokes was a shock absentee at Dumbarton where Hibs went three goals down – Kevin Cawley, Nade and Darren Barr scoring for the home side – before mounting a stirring fightback with strikes from Liam Henderson and Farid El Alagui only to suffer a second successive defeat which leaves their title hopes all but gone with leaders Rangers now 11 points clear.

But Stubbs expects both Stokes and club captain David Gray – who also missed out at the weekend – to be back in contention, revealing they’d both been floored by the bug which saw Martin Boyle sit out the visit of Morton last week.

He said: “We’ve had a couple not well. There’s a little bit of a bug around. Martin had it, Anthony and David now have it but the indications are they will be training today and hopefully everyone will be okay for tomorrow.

“It’s that time of year. We’ve had a strange old winter and there seems to be a bug flying around.”