Hibs v St Johnstone preview: Kamberi out, Hanlon in contention, can Hibs stay focused?

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Hibs will take on St Johnstone at Easter Road on Saturday as they look to return to winning ways in the Ladbrokes Premiership.

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The first meeting between the sides was a 1-1 draw back in August. Picture: SNS

The first meeting between the sides was a 1-1 draw back in August. Picture: SNS

Unfortunately the build up to the game has focused less on what is in store for Neil Lennon’s side and more on the off-field incidents which plagued Wednesday’s 0-0 Edinburgh derby draw at Tynecastle.

The home side will have to remain focused, though, as they’ll be facing a St Johnstone team who’ve built up a head of steam in recent weeks. The McDiarmid Park club have won their last three league meetings without conceding a goal and now sit just a point behind Saturday’s opponents.

Hibs will be hampered without Florian Kamberi as the striker misses out through suspension, though there’s a possibility that both Paul Hanlon and Thomas Agyepong will return from injury.

They could move up as far as third place in the table with a victory.

Injuries / suspensions / unavailable

Hibs - Kamberi red card in Wednesday’s Edinburgh derby means he’ll be absent, while David Gray remains on the sidelines with an ankle injury.

St Johnstone - Steven Anderson (knee), Brian Easton (groin) and Blair Alston (dead leg) remain absent, though there’s hope that David Wotherspoon will recover in time after taking a knock in the midweek win over Livingston. Former Hibbee Danny Swanson and fellow midfielder Murray Davidson should be fit despite struggling with illness.

Magic number

13 - the number of league games Hibs have gone without losing at Easter Road. Accounting for all competitions and limiting matches to 90 minutes only, the run is 18 games.

Key battle

If St Johnstone are to cause an upset and leave Edinburgh with all three points then it’ll be former Hearts striker Tony Watt who’ll likely play a significant role. He hasn’t scored since late August but continues to be a talismanic figure for Tommy Wright’s men. If Efe Ambrose and company are able to neutralise his threat then there should be enough quality in the rest of the home side to earn victory.

Key stats

The Perth Saints remain undefeated against Saturday’s opponents since Hibs returned to the top flight of Scottish football last year. Three of those four fixtures were 1-1 draws, which is exactly how it looked the other match would end before current Hearts striker Steven MacLean popped up to net an injury-time winner for the club he won the 2014 Scottish Cup with.

Referee

Nick Walsh will take charge of a Hibs game for the first time this season. You have to go back to December 2017 for the last time he referred a match involving Lennon’s men, who were able to defeat Ross County 2-1 at Easter Road. Opponents St Johnstone will be hoping to have better luck than the last time they encountered the whistler as they went down 2-1 to Hearts in their last trip to Edinburgh.

Possible teams

Hibs: Bogdan; Ambrose, McGregor, Hanlon; Boyle, Mallan, Milligan, Hyndman, Stevenson; Shaw, Maclaren. Subs from: Marciano, Mavrias, Nelom, Whittaker, Porteous, Horgan, Bartley, Agyepong, Slivka, Gullan, Murray.

St Johnstone: Clark; Shaughnessy, Gordon, Kerr; Foster, Davidson, Wotherspoon, Craig, Tanser; Kennedy, Watt. Subs from: Mitchell, Comrie, Swanson, Scougall, Wright, McMillan, Nydam, Kane, Callachan, Hurst.