Hibs v St Johnstone preview: Midfielder returns, who starts in defence, ex-Hibees in Saints line-up

Hibs host St Johnstone tomorrow, hoping to build on last week's Betfred Cup win over Morton and secure their second win of the season.

Friday, 23rd August 2019, 3:44 pm
The Hibs players are put through their paces at East Mains

The Saints have been something of a bogey team for Hibs in recent seasons but lost 7-0 on the opening day of the season at Celtic before earning a draw with Livingston last time out.

The presence of former Hibees Liam Craig, Matty Kennedy, Danny Swanson and David Wotherspoon in the visitors' squad adds a bit of an edge to the clash.

Paul Heckingbottom will have to reshuffle his defence with Darren McGregor out for the foreseeable future after being forced out of the Betfred Cup tie against Morton.

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Adam Jackson replaced the 34-year-old then and will most likely line up alongside Paul Hanlon in central defence with Ryan Porteous, still recovering from knee surgery, probably taking a seat on the bench.

The return to action of club captain David Gray and the long-serving Lewis Stevenson will help alleviate his problems and the back but with Tom James out with an ankle problem and youngster Sean Mackie suspended following his red card at Ibrox, Heckingbottom will have his fingers crossed that he isn’t confronted by any further problems tomorrow.

Magic number

2012 - the last time Hibs beat St Johnstone at Easter Road. Murray Davidson and Liam Craig lined up for St Johnstone and could do so again tomorrow, while Paul Hanlon, who scored in the last win at Easter Road, will almost certainly start for Hibs. David Wotherspoon was in his final season for Hibs before moving to McDiarmid Park while future Easter Road forward Rowan Vine played the full 90 minutes for the Saints.

Possible teams

Hibs: Marciano; Gray, Jackson, Hanlon, Stevenson; Vela, Mallan; Horgan, Allan, Middleton; Kamberi. Subs (from): Maxwell, Doig, Porteous, Slivka, Doidge, F Murray, Shaw.

St Johnstone: Clark; Foster, Vihmann, Kerr, Tanser; Kennedy, Davidson, McCann, Swanson; Kane, O'Halloran. Subs (from): Parish, Duffy, Gordon, Craig, McClean, Hendry, Struthers.

Key battle

Chris Kane scored the last time the two sides met and Paul Hanlon and Adam Jackson will need to curb his influence.

Lowdown on opponents

Tommy Wright doesn’t have his troubles to seek, but the St Johnstone manager’s mood might have been lightened a little as he watched Hibs struggle to overcome Morton.

The McDiarmid Park outfit’s own calamitous Betfred Cup campaign – beaten by Montrose, Ross County and Forfar – had earned (if that’s the right word) Wright and his players a weekend off, giving him the opportunity to cast an eye over Paul Heckingbottom’s side ahead of Saints visit to Easter Road tomorrow.

And already it’s taking on the air of a must-win match for both teams, Hibs back in Premiership action following that 6-1 hammering by Rangers at Ibrox, while the Perth club have taken just one point from their opening league games, coming back from two down against Livingston after a 7-0 mauling on the first day of the season at Celtic Park.

Hibs did, of course, beat Morton, but only after the Championship outfit had taken them to extra-time, and while they scored five goals they conceded three to make it nine lost in the space of just six days.

St Johnstone have had their own troubles at the back as evidenced by their early season results with new arrival Madis Vihmann, on loan from Estonian club Flora Tallinn, a much-needed addition to play in front of goalkeepr Zander Clark, who has become a key figure over the past couple of seasons.

Wright hasn’t been helped, yet again, by the loss of a number of first team fixtures, Tony Watt, Blair Alston, Brian Easton and Joe Shaughnessy among the departures, leaving the squad somewhat threadbare, while Saints’ summer-long pursuit of striker Stevie May has so far proved fruitless, compounding the early season frustrations.

Saints, though, always make it tough for Hibs.

Referee

Don Robertson takes charge of this clash.