Mask to help Michael Nelson speed up Hibs return

Michael Nelson suffered a fractured cheekbone against Celtic. Pic: SNS
Michael Nelson suffered a fractured cheekbone against Celtic. Pic: SNS
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HIBS star Michael Nelson has revealed he’s ready to wear a face mask to speed up his return to action after having his cheekbone fractured in three places.

The Easter Road centre half needed an operation and two metal plates inserted after suffering the horror injury during the recent 1-1 draw with Celtic after which Hoops boss Neil Lennon accused Pat Fenlon’s players of “shocking, reckless and rugby-esque” tackles.

Nelson was one of several Hibs players who reacted with anger to Lennon’s after-match outburst, posting a photograph of himself sporting a black eye on Twitter after a clash of heads with Celtic striker Amido Balde late in the game. The ‘shiner’, however, proved to be much more serious. While initial checks proved inconclusive due to the amount of swelling around the 33-year-old’s left eye, a further hospital visit revealed the full extent of the injury, which will keep Nelson sidelined for a number of weeks. Although Hibs have yet to officially confirm Nelson’s situation, he took to social media to inform supporters: “Well, that black eye turned into three fractures, an operation and two metal plates inserted in my cheekbone.

“Out for a while unfortunately. Not sure yet [how long] just have to see how I feel.”

However, Nelson revealed that while he expects to be out for a few weeks – club skipper James McPake stepped in as a direct replacement in Saturday’s defeat by Aberdeen having recovered from his own injury problems – he hopes he can minimise that time by donning a protective mask as others have done in the past.

He said: “I am not sure how long at the minute, but hope to get back wearing a face mask. But it will still be a few weeks.”

Nelson’s form since his surprise move from Bradford City had forced McPake, who hadn’t started a Premiership match after suffering a back spasm in the second leg of the Europa League tie with Malmo, to patiently await an opportunity to make his comeback, but there were no happy returns for the big stopper as late goals by substitutes Scott Vernon and Greg Wylde earned the Pittodrie side a well-deserved victory.

Afterwards, while crediting Aberdeen for their performance, Fenlon hit out at his players after they fell flat just seven days after their battling performance against Celtic.

The Hibs boss said: “I don’t think we got anywhere near where we were against Celtic. I don’t think we deserved anything out of it so I cannot complain. But we did not play to the levels we know we are capable of, so that was more disappointing than anything. We’d spoken to the players about making sure their performance levels, their commitment, their tenacity against Celtic were the same against anyone else.”

Fenlon, though, insisted Wednesday night’s League Cup quarter-final against Capital rivals Hearts presents his side with the ideal opportunity to bounce back after Hibs slipped out of the top six – albeit on goal difference – when they’d had the chance to leapfrog the Dons into fourth.

He said: “When you lose games, the first thing you want to do is get back on the pitch playing. It helps we are playing on Wednesday – throw into the equation it’s Hearts and that’s even better.”