Kevin Nisbet Hibs return pencilled in as Lee Johnson reveals striker 'dilemma'

Hibs manager Lee Johnson admits he came close to including Kevin Nisbet in his squad for the cinch Premiership clash with Ross County – but the striker should be fit to face Rangers next month.

The 25-year-old hasn’t played since suffering a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament and torn meniscus in a goalless draw with Celtic at Easter Road in February but took part in the pre-match warm-up ahead of Friday night’s 4-1 defeat by Aberdeen as he nears a return to action.

Nisbet won’t be rushed back but Johnson is hopeful of having the Scotland internationalist at his disposal for the trip to Ibrox on Thursday, December 15, potentially as a starter.

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“Nizzy is a bit of a dilemma for me. I think I could have had him on the bench for a half-hour cameo against Ross County; I really do,” Johnson said on Monday.

"But I’m not going to do that. The next game [against Kilmarnock] is on Astro, and with the difference between seven-and-a-half months and eight-and-a-half months of the recurrence rate of an ACL injury with no game, it is a bit of a risk and he’s too important.

“He’s not played a minute behind closed doors, or any reserve or development matches. This game is important and I can see a scenario where we are drawing and we could use his quality in terms of his touch and his finish. I made a decision to play Martin Boyle against Hearts with no pre-season, but in this decision I’m going to elongate his time to come back fine.”

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Nisbet has also eschewed the chance for a few days break after the Kilmarnock game. The striker has instead asked to do extra work at HTC to help him return in peak condition.

"Kevin has been good as gold. He’s sensible enough. The boys have eight or nine days off but he doesn’t want any time off,” Johnson added.

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Kevin Nisbet has asked to do extra work during the World Cup break as he chases a return to action

"He wants to be worked so he can come into the next period flying. That’s a great attitude. It’s a good natural break for us and for him. It will be like a mini preseason for him. It’s perfect timing for him going into the Rangers game as a potential starter. I don’t see any reason why that’s not a possibility.”