Hibs star Mark Milligan set for emergency role against Motherwell

Mark Milligan challenges Scott Arfield of Rangers
Mark Milligan challenges Scott Arfield of Rangers
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Mark Milligan is the leading contender to replace the suspended Darren McGregor at the heart of Hibs’ defence for Saturday’s crucial Easter Road showdown with Motherwell.

The former St Mirren and Rangers defender is banned after being sent off for two bookable offences in last Friday’s 1-1 draw at home to the Ibrox side.

This, allied to the fact Ryan Porteous is out for the remainder of the season and on-loan Leicester City defender Darnell Johnson is still recovering from injury, leaves Paul Hanlon as the only recognised centre-back available for this weekend’s clash between two mid-table sides separated by just two points in the chase for what appears to be only one top-six spot.

Milligan has been a regular at the base of Hibs’ midfield under head coach Paul Heckingbottom, but, as the only other senior player in the squad with notable experience of playing at centre-back, the 34-year-old is likely to be asked to step back and deputise for McGregor alongside Hanlon. Although predominantly a midfielder, Milligan regularly plays as a central defender for Australia, while he was also used in this position under previous Hibs manager Neil Lennon earlier in the season.

The blow of having to remove Milligan from his anchorman berth would be softened by the fact Vykintas Slivka is available to return to the team after serving a suspension last Friday, while Heckingbottom also has the option of putting specialist holding midfielder Marvin Bartley in as a like-for-like replacement for the Aussie.

Meanwhile, on-form Hibs goalkeeper Ofir Marciano has been recalled to the Israel squad for their Euro 2020 qualifiers against Slovenia and Austria in Haifa later this month. The 29-year-old has been capped 11 times but hasn’t featured since 2017, when he played in a 4-1 World Cup qualifying defeat to Spain.

Marciano was plagued by injury problems in the first half of the season but has started each of Hibs’ past ten games since replacing the concussed Adam Bogdan for the closing stages of the 4-0 Scottish Cup victory over Elgin City in January.