Hibs winger Brandon Barker is losing his race against time to be fit for Sunday’s Scottish Cup derby against Hearts.
The on-loan Manchester City player suffered a knee injury in a crunching – but fair – tackle by Jambos defender John Souttar only minutes after coming on as a late substitute as the Capital clubs drew 0-0 in Gorgie before the winter break. Barker was immediately ruled out of Hibs’ match against Kilmarnock a few days later and although the 21-year-old, inset, travelled with Neil Lennon’s squad to their week-long training camp on the Algarve, he was unable to join in full training sessions and played no part in either of their friendlies against Dutch sides Excelsior Rotterdam and Willem II.
Lennon had expressed the hope while in Portugal that Barker would be able to begin training with an eye to being available for this weekend as the Edinburgh clubs began to prepare to meet for the third consecutive season in the cup with Hibs making the trip across the city looking to protect a run of nine matches unbeaten against their arch-rivals.
However, it is understood Barker continues to receive treatment with the clock now very much against him being involved in a match for which Lennon will also be without club skipper David Gray and Steven Whittaker.
Gray suffered an Achilles injury only minutes into the game with Willem II and although scans are believed to show it was not as serious as first feared, he’s likely to be out for up to three months which, in effect, has brought his season to a premature end.
Whittaker also travelled to Portugal but took no part in either game, Lennon revealing the 33-year-old is continuing to be troubled by the pelvic problem which dogged him in the weeks leading up to the break.
As such, Lennon will be forced to again to field central defender Efe Ambrose at right-back, a situation he admits isn’t ideal while expressing his full confidence in the Nigerian internationalist in that makeshift position.