Hibs boss happy to have 'one of best in league' fit to face Dundee

Monty looking to key figures as top-six chase reaches home straight
David Marshall - picture with Celtic goalie Joe Hart - picked up a hamstring injury last weekend.David Marshall - picture with Celtic goalie Joe Hart - picked up a hamstring injury last weekend.
David Marshall - picture with Celtic goalie Joe Hart - picked up a hamstring injury last weekend.

David Marshall is fit, Rocky Bushiri raring to go. In a season when there’s been so much disruption around a squad diminished by injury and international commitments, both pieces of news have to be considered positives.

And how Hibs could do with a few of those, heading into this afternoon’s home game against dogged and dangerous Dundee, currently sitting five points ahead of their hosts in the Scottish Premiership table – and occupying that all-important sixth place in a league given another dramatic counterpoint by the annual split. This is as close as any February league fixture gets to an absolute “must win” for Nick Montgomery’s men. Every available body will be needed, then, to get the job done.

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Revealing that former Scotland No. 1 Marshall had recovered from the injury that saw him limp off late in last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Aberdeen, an upbeat Monty said he was relieved to have “one of the best goalkeepers in the league” available, explaining:  “The pitch at Pittodrie was really crumbly and it’s just been an action where he’s had more of a cramp than a strain. We had a scan that came back clear, so Marsh has been back in training and is in contention.

“He’s been massive for us. He’s been one of the best goalkeepers in the league.  The way we play, he’s really calm and composed with the ball at feet. And not only that, he’s a great character. A character who brings a wealth of experience to everything we do. And he’s been on form.

“Again, it was a precautionary thing to take him off but well done to the physios for making the decision. And I thought when Jojo Wollacott came on, he was really assured, took a couple of catches and saw the game out. So there are a lot of positives to take from the situation – but it’s great to have Marsh back in training.”

Bushiri is also fit to start despite missing two months of football while serving as a non-playing member of Democratic Republic of Congo’s AFCON squad, Montgomery confirming: “Yeah, he’s trained really well this week. Unfortunately he’s been away for two months and didn’t play one minute of match football. But that’s stuff we can’t control.

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“He’s trained really hard, been back for just over a week, so yeah, he’s in contention for tomorrow. As ever, I’ll pick based on who is ready and available, pick the best 11 players to start – and decide who comes off the bench.

“The one thing we have now is that impact off the bench. We’ve got people fighting for positions, so it’s a good headache to have – one I haven’t had very often this season.”

Hibs beat Dundee 2-1 at Dens Park in November and, more pertinently, dominated proceedings in a 0-0 draw with the Dark Blues at Easter Road in September. On paper, the home side should have the beating of Tony Docherty’s men. On paper.

“The last time we played them at home, we had 25 opportunities on goal and still couldn’t break them down,” said Montgomery. “They’re quite resilient, they defend well.

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“But they’re also dangerous. So what we can’t do is change things to chase it. We have to go out there with a plan to win the game.

“This is the first full week of training we’ve had with everybody back, including Rocky, who was back in full training this week after being away on international duty. So we’ve prepared really well. Now we have to perform.”

Asked about the risk of thinking beyond this game, and trying to work out how they’ll navigate the following seven league fixtures before the split, Monty admitted: “That can be really dangerous. As a team and as a manager, we aren’t going to focus on two or three games ahead.

“It’s always about the next game and putting in full preparation, with the staff, knowing that we go in with a really well thought out game plan. Then it’s about the players executing it on the day.

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“But we’re at home a lot now, which is good. We’ve had a lot of tough away games, so to have a run of home games is something you look on as an advantage, especially with our crowd, who we know can really get behind the players.

“I hope we can fill the stadium between now and the end of the season. And make those home games count, with everyone getting behind the team.”

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