Hibs skipper David Gray winning fitness race for Hampden
Hibs skipper David Gray is winning his fight for fitness and looks set to lead his team-mates out at Hampden for this afternoon's William Scottish Cup semi-final against Dundee United.
Gray was forced to limp out of Tuesday’s ill-tempered clash with Falkirk – following a first-half challenge from former Easter Road midfielder Tom Taiwo – raising an immediate question as to whether he would be ready for today.
But head coach Alan Stubbs revealed the right back has responded to treatment along with midfielders John McGinn and Marvin Bartley, who also picked up knocks during that game and had to be replaced.
Gray returned to training yesterday, leading Stubbs to say: “David is going very well, he is responding to treatment and we are very hopeful he will be okay. It was right down his shin. I don’t think for one minute the tackle was meant, Tom is not that type of player, but that does not necessarily mean it was a good tackle.”
Stubbs admitted that, given Gray’s importance to the team, he could leave a decision until the last minute. He said: “If we have to we will give him the time, but hopefully it won’t be that type of decision.
“All three players who came off against Falkirk did so because of injury. John picked up a knock while Marvin’s calves were tight although they seem to have settle down. He has a good chance of being okay as does John who has also been responding to treatment.”
Meanwhile, although he was delighted with the display his side produced for 85 minutes against Falkirk, the Bairns scoring twice in they dying minutes to claim a 2-2 draw, Stubbs insisted his players will have to go for the full 90 minutes and more against United, adamant Hibs’ 3-0 victory over Mixu Paatelainen’s team in the League Cup will have no bearing today.
He said: “I think it’s a completely different set of circumstances now. That was then, this is now.
“If anything it will give the players that little bit of comfort that they know they can beat them. But I think United are stronger than they were.
“I’m not saying they are a drastically different team – but they are stronger.”
However, Stubbs saw a renaissance in his own players despite the disappointment of losing those two goals to Falkirk. He said: “I saw a response on Tuesday. That was night and day compared with Alloa.
“We were back to the levels of form we showed earlier in the season. We looked hungry. We were jumping into tackles. We looked a threat going forward. It was a really good sign for me.
“We need to respond and I thought it was a real step in the right direction. But that level for 85 minutes won’t be good enough, we need to be at it for 94 minutes in every game.
“We have seen what we can do once we get to that level. We have seen it against Hearts, Inverness, Aberdeen, all those Premiership teams we have beaten.”