Hibs boss Alan Stubbs today insisted he has the strength in depth to cope with the loss of three key players for Saturday’s Scottish Cup fifth round clash with League Two leaders Arbroath.
Although striker Dominique Malonga has returned from international duty with Congo in the Africa Cup of Nations he is suspended for the visit of the Red Lichties after being sent off minutes from the end of the victory over Alloa Athletic in the previous round.
Malonga has missed Hibs’ last four matches.
Also absent will be on-loan players Martin Boyle and Keith Watson who are ineligible having featured for their parent clubs Dundee, and Dundee United, in the competition.
But, as revealed by the Evening News, right-back David Gray is poised to return less than a month after undergoing surgery on the groin problem which had troubled him for a number of weeks leading up to the Christmas period and Fraser Fyvie, who signed on transfer deadline day, will come straight into Stubbs’ plans.
The head coach said: “We will miss three important players but we’ve been aware of that and I feel we have enough in hand with the depth of squad for it, hopefully, not to have too much of an impact.
“It’s all gone to plan as far as David is concerned, he’s been in with the team this week. We’ve done different types of training but hopefully he’ll be on the grass today with the rest of team and be available for Saturday.”
Admitting it feels “a long time ago” since Hibs were paired with Arbroath in the fifth-round draw, Stubbs revealed he has left no stone unturned in building up a detailed dossier on Allan Moore’s squad.
He said: “We have had them watched on six occasions since the draw, probably more. Obviously they are not in our division which has made it more difficult to get video coverage but we have managed to do that and have recordings of two or three of their games.
“It’s been difficult for me to see them in person with both teams playing on a Saturday but I fully trust the people I have doing our match reports and video analysis. They have been very good with the reports they have provided for me, they’ve given me a good indication of what we are going to be up against.”
And although Malonga will be restricted to being a spectator this weekend, Stubbs disclosed the striker is “raring to go” once again for Hibs after having a chat with the player on his return to the Capital.
He said: “Dominique really enjoyed the experience of being part of the group at such a prestigious tournament.
“He will have learned from the experience. He really enjoyed it although he didn’t play as much as he would have wanted but he just wants to play football again, he’s ready and raring to go.”