Kilmarnock v Hibs: Gray returns, Bartley doubtful, Hibs’ terrific record against Clarke

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Hibs will look to shake themselves out of the recent slump as they travel to Rugby Park for a clash with Kilmarnock on Saturday afternoon.

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David Gray battles for possession with Greg Taylor. Picture: SNS

David Gray battles for possession with Greg Taylor. Picture: SNS

Neil Lennon’s men have gone five Ladbrokes Premiership games without victory, the nadir of which came last weekend when bottom side Dundee were able to erase a two-goal deficit to leave Easter Road with a point.

Hibs have been boosted by the return of David Gray after the club captain returned to training earlier this week. The right-back has been absent for almost two months through injury, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll be fit enough to start this game.

In order to stop the rot, Hibs will need to replicate their result from mid-September where they defeated Killie in Edinburgh. Since then, though, their hosts have lost only once in their last nine games.

Magic number

14 - The number of goals Hibs have scored in five fixtures against Kilmarnock since returning to the top flight, all of which came after Steve Clarke took over the reins. That’s almost an average of three goals per game. By comparison, the rest of the league have netted 32 goals combined in 39 games. That’s an average of only 0.82 goals per game.

Injuries / suspensions / unavailable

Kilmarnock - Defender Stuart Findlay has been ruled out. The former Celtic youngster pulled up with a calf injury in last week’s draw away to St Johnstone and will not feature. On-loan Wolves frontman Bright Enobakhare is also unavailable thanks to a calf strain. Eamonn Brophy and Aaron Tshibola have both missed the last few weeks’ action but are set to step up their recovery work next week.

Hibs - Gray and young striker Oli Shaw are both fit again, though Lennon will be without the services of winger Thomas Agyepong, who limped out of the previous match with Dundee. Marvin Bartley is a doubt for the match with a back problem, while Emerson Hydnman remains on the sidelines.

Key battle

Kilmarnock left-back Greg Taylor has been in terrific form in recent weeks, putting in star showings against Hearts and St Johnstone as the Ayrshire side recorded consecutive clean sheets. This weekend he’ll likely go up against Martin Boyle. The winger’s form has tailed off a little of late, but he’s still capable of winning games on his own and Hibs typically perform much better when he’s at the top of his game. Whoever comes out on top on this battle will have a significant say in the final result.

Key stats

It’s a clash of differing styles at Rugby Park. Hibs have largely built their success around possession-based football. Their average of 54 per cent is the third best in the league, while Killie are fourth from last with 47 per cent. Lennon’s side also like to throw crosses into the penalty box, wracking up 250 so far this term (2nd overall), while their hosts have attempted just 179 (10th).

Referee

This is the first time Craig Thomson - not a popular figure round Easter Road way, -will take charge of a Hibs match this season. The last occasion occurred at the tail end of the 2017/18 season when Thomson oversaw the 2-1 defeat at Tynecastle. Killie, on the other hand, have had three of their matches officiated by him this term. They’ll be looking to keep up their 100 per cent record in those games after victories over Aberdeen, Celtic and Dumbarton in the Betfred Cup.

Possible teams

Kilmarnock: MacDonald; O’Donnell, Broadfoot, Boyd, Taylor; Burke, Power, Dicker, Jones; Stewart; Boyd. Subs from: Bachmann, Waters, Millen, Byrne, McKenzie, Kiltie, Wilson, Ndjoli.

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