Nigerian internationalist Efe Ambrose is set to go straight into Hibs’ Championship clash with St Mirren tomorrow night after the Celtic defender completed a 93-day emergency loan deal to join the Easter Road club until the end of the season.
Faced with a defensive crisis which had left him with Darren McGregor as his only fit centre back, Hibs boss Neil Lennon moved quickly after a proposed switch to Blackburn Rovers for Ambrose hit work permit problems.
The 28-year-old underwent a medical last night with the final paperwork due to be completed today, paving the way for him to play in Paisley as the Capital club seek to extend their lead over title rivals Dundee United at the top of the table to ten points.
Lennon has been without Paul Hanlon for the past eight games, the former Scotland Under-21 captain having undergone an operation to cure a pelvic problem which had been troubling him for a number of weeks.
Hanlon was joined on the sidelines by Jordon Forster, the victim of a hamstring strain as Hibs faced Hearts in their Scottish Cup tie at Tynecastle while Liam Fontaine became the latest casualty as he was forced to limp off before half-time in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Dunfermline. Fontaine, who was already carrying a rib injury from the cup replay victory over the Jambos, “opened his ankle”, resulting in midfielder Marvin Bartley partnering McGregor in central defence before he was moved into his more familiar position in the middle of the park as 20-year-old Callum Crane made his league debut.
The extent of Fontaine’s injury has yet to be revealed but Lennon’s problems were exacerbated by the knowledge that McGregor will be suspended for Saturday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final against Ayr United, picking up an automatic one-match ban having been booked in both games with Hearts.
Lennon has admitted his squad is looking “a little bare” at present with Dylan McGeouch, Chris Humphrey, Danny Handling and Alex Harris also out, leaving him with the prospect of having to dip into Hibs’ development team to bolster his first-team squad.
The arrival of Ambrose, a member of Nigeria’s squad for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, will go some way to alleviate that
situation although he hasn’t played a first-team game since facing Astana in Kazakhstan in a Champions League qualifying match last July.
Lennon hopes that both Hanlon and Forster will be available for selection in the near future although he revealed Hanlon had suffered a set back in the recovery from the operation which has put him out since the beginning of January.
He said: “The surgery went okay but Paul has had a nerve problem that’s causing him a bit of discomfort.
“He’s receiving treatment but it’s totally separate from the surgery and we are hoping both he and Jordon will be out running this week.”
It’s the second time this season Lennon has returned to his former club to sign players on short-term deals, former Scotland midfielder Kris Commons playing five matches in a 28-day emergency loan period over the Christmas and New Year period at a time when Hibs had John McGinn, Fraser Fyvie and James Keatings out of action.
Commons scored twice in that time, netting the winners against Falkirk and Dumbarton, goals which, arguably, have put Hibs clear in the title race.