St Johnstone v Hibs preview: Defender returns | Five out | Settled team

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Hibs travel to Perth tonight, looking for a third win under Paul Heckingbottom at a venue at which they last recorded a victory in September 2013.

St Johnstone, meanwhile, are winless in seven matches, and have scored just once in that stretch. However, the McDiarmid Park side are no pushovers at home and will be looking to bring an end to their slump.

Oli Shaw stoops to head the equaliser last time out at McDiarmid Park. Picture: SNS Group

Oli Shaw stoops to head the equaliser last time out at McDiarmid Park. Picture: SNS Group

Heckingbottom is likely to go with the same starting line-up that recorded victories over Hamilton and Dundee, although defender Darnell Johnson is available for selection after serving a two-match suspension.

Midfield pair Thomas Agyepong and Marvin Bartley are close to a return, with the pair training as they seek to overcome their respective injuries, but midfielder Ryan Gauld remains sidelined with a hamstring problem.

Winger Martin Boyle and centre-back Ryan Porteous are long-term injury absentees, with the pair nursing knee injuries.

St Johnstone have their fare share of injuries as well. Attacker Drey Wright is sidelined long-term with a knee problem while Zander Clark, who has been in impressive form this season, remains on the sidelines.

The goalkeeper is out with a hamstring complaint.

Winger Michael O’Halloran should return to the matchday squad - the former Rangers wideman has been training for several days after his hamstring issue cleared up.

Brian Easton missed out for the reserves on Monday because the game was on artificial turf but will continue his comeback from a long-term groin injury with the second string side.

Former Hibs midfielder David Wotherspoon is hopeful of recording a second win over his old side this season, having played in the 1-0 win at Easter Road earlier in the campaign.

Wotherspoon said: “I have watched a couple of [Hibs] games on TV and they have obviously had a lift from the new manager coming in. But we have beaten them already this season so we will look to do that again.”

Easter Road winger Daryl Horgan is hopeful of another three points as Hibs chase that top-six spot.

The Irishman said: “We’re now sixth in the table and everything is looking brilliant and we’re only looking up. Fingers crossed we can continue this vein of form and continue kicking up the table.

“We’ve got a massive game coming on Wednesday and if we can win that we’ll put ourselves in a great position.

“It would be a massive plus for us. The battle in mid-table is quite tight there at the minute but it’s key for us to be in that top six.”

Injuries / suspensions / unavailable

St Johnstone: Zander Clark (hamstring), Brian Easton (recovery), David Mitchell (hip), Drey Wright (knee)

Hibs: Thomas Agyepong (recovery), Marvin Bartley (recovery), Martin Boyle (knee), Ryan Gauld (hamstring), Ryan Porteous (knee).

Possible teams

St Johnstone (4-1-4-1): Bell; Foster, Kerr, Shaughnessy, Tanser; Craig; Wotherspoon, Davidson, Goss, Kennedy; Kane. Subs from: Hurst, Alston, Swanson, Hendry, Callachan, Keown, Watt, O’Halloran.

Hibs (4-4-2): Marciano; Gray, McGregor, Hanlon, Stevenson; Mallan, Milligan, Slivka, Horgan; Kamberi, McNulty. Subs from: Bogdan, Nelom, Mackie, Whittaker, Johnson, Omeonga, F Murray, Bigirimana, Shaw, Allan, Gullan.

Magic number - 7

Hibs have failed to win in their last seven league meetings with St Johnstone, while the Perthshire side are winless in their last seven matches.

Key battle

Jason Kerr and Joe Shaughnessy will be a stern test for Hibs’ front two of Florian Kamberi and Marc McNulty as the strikers look to help Hibs to a third win on the bounce.

St Johnstone danger men

Matty Kennedy will be a familiar face to Hibs fans, having spent half a season at Easter Road on loan during Alan Stubbs’ tenure, and the winger is one of several attacking threats for the home side. Danny Swanson and Michael O’Halloran are also capable of causing damage.

Key stats

Midfielder Stevie Mallan leads his team-mates in terms of shots on goal (54), shots on target (22), shots off target and assists (six). Florian Kamberi, who is on the same number of goals as the ex-St Mirren man, will be looking to add to his tally this evening, but the Swiss striker’s tendency to win free kicks could hand his team-mate the chance for another goal - the striker is the most fouled Hibs player.

Referee

Gavin Duncan is the man in the middle for tonight’s match. He is assisted by Frank Connor and Calum Spence, with Craig Napier on fourth-official duties.