Hibs v Hamilton: Agyepong and Hanlon doubts, Maclaren still out, Keatings return

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Hibs can move within two points of Capital rivals Hearts at the top of the Ladbokres Premiership table when they host Hamilton Academical at Easter Road on Saturday.

• READ MORE: Five things Hibs fans should know about Saturday’s opponents Hamilton

Martin Boyle will once again be a key player for Hibs against Hamilton. Picture: SNS/Craig Foy

Martin Boyle will once again be a key player for Hibs against Hamilton. Picture: SNS/Craig Foy

After the disappointment of exiting the Betfred Cup last month, Hibs responded by picking up three points in a hard-fought win in Paisley against St Mirren.

The goalscorer David Gray, one of the club’s better performers on the day, had to be replaced in the second half due to an injury. Boss Neil Lennon said that his captain is having a “great season” and he should be back in the team looking to build on his fine start to the campaign.

The manager was hopeful earlier in the week that he would have Hanlon back available. Although it isn’t such a pressing concern if he isn’t quite ready with Efe Ambrose in imperious form. The Nigerian was head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch last weekend.

Lennon is more confident about Martin Boyle who has been in the news this week. The winger received his first international call-up when he was included in Graham Arnold’s Australia squad on Friday.

He was absent for Hibs’ 1-0 win over St Mirren due to bruising on the bone. Lennon admitted that he could have been on the bench but opted not to take the risk.

It is looking likely that Boyle will replace Agyepong who is a doubt with a tight hamstring. The Ghanian winger has had his injury issues to contend with during his career but will still be adapting to the rigours of the Scottish game. Like Boyle, he also received an international call-up as he looks to add to his five appearances for the Black Stars.

In recent games Adam Bogdan has made key saves but will now face increased competition with the return of Ofir Marciano following his finger injury.

Visitors Hamilton are one of the most unpredictable teams in the division. They are capable of brilliant performances, like the one they had over St Mirren two weeks ago or the defeat of Hibs at the start of last season which featured one of the goals of the season, Accies sweeping up field with a fine collective dissection of the Hibs defence.

In defeat to Dundee at the HopeCBD stadium they were without key players Darian MacKinnon and Mickel Miller, the latter of which was a huge blow. Aside from long-term injuries Martin Canning has a number of options to choose from, including former Hibs trio Tom Taiwo, Scott Martin and James Keatings.

• READ MORE: Why Martin Boyle’s call-up is testament to Neil Lennon’s work at Hibs

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• READ MORE: James Keatings returns to Easter Road after beating depression

Injuries / suspensions / unavailable

Hibs - Thomas Agyepong is a doubt with a tight hamstring. Paul Hanlon is likely to miss out again with a dead leg. Jamie Maclaren (back) remains out while goalkeeper Ofir Marciano is pushing for a return to the squad following a finger injury.

Hamilton - Darian MacKinnon and Mickel Miller are both in contention after they both sat out last weekend’s defeat to Dundee with hamstring injuries. Defender Alex Gogic and forward Marios Ogkmpoe are both out with long-term knee injuries.

Magic number

4 - Hibs are attempting to win their fourth league game in a row for nearly a year. In the space of 12 days last season Hibs defeated Hearts 2-0, Motherwell 1-0, Kilmarnock 3-0 and Dundee 2-1. It was a much needed boost after only one win in seven previous league outings.

Key battle

In recent weeks Hamilton have switched from their usual back three to a back four. Scott McMann who has played as a wing-back, centre-back and full-back will be stationed on the left. Therefore he will be up against Martin Boyle who will be raring to go after missing last weekend’s match and having just been handed his first international call-up. Boyle will be familiar with going up against Hamilton in a back three as a wing-back but could be confronting McMann closer to goal since he may be used as a winger in a 4-2-3-1.

Key stats

There will be a clash of styles at Easter Road on Saturday. Hibs are known for their quick, incisive play in their midfield and through the opposition’s defence. Only Celtic have played more passes than Hibs in the league, while no team has recorded more than Hibs’ 58 through balls. Hamilton on the other hand have hit only four fewer long passes than Livingston.

Referee

Hibs fans may be pleased to find out that Don Robertson will be the man in the middle at Easter Road. He has refereed the Leith side on 13 occasions with only one defeat for the Hibees. It’s his fourth Premiership game of the season. He sent off Ross McCrorie in Rangers’ 2-0 defeat of St Mirren and awarded Hearts the penalty which Steven Naismith missed in the goalless draw with Livingson.

Possible teams

Hibs (4-2-3-1): Bogdan; Gray, Ambrose, Hanlon, Stevenson; Milligan, Mallan; Boyle, Hyndman, Horgan; Kamberi. Subs from: Laidlaw, Marciano, McGregor, Nelom, Porteous, Mackie, Bartley, Slivka, F Murray, Shaw, Allan, Gullan.

Hamilton (4-3-3): Woods; McGowan, Want, Kilgallon, McMann; Martin, MacKinnon, S Kelly; Imire, Brustad, Miller. Subs from: Gordon, Sowah, Penny, Taiwo, Tshiembe, Bingham, Bloomfield, Boyd, Cunningham, Keatings, Stanger, Monlouis, Fulton.

Kick-off: 3pm

• READ MORE: New date revealed for Hibs v Rangers at Easter Road

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