St Mirren v Hibs: Hanlon doubt, Gray to return, Marciano and Nelom in contention

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Hibs will look to rise to second place in the Scottish Premiership, at least for a short time, as they head to Paisley to face St Mirren targeting a third league win in on the trot.

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Florian Kamberi was back to his best for Hibs against Aberdeen in the Betfred Cup. Picture: SNS/Ross Parker

Florian Kamberi was back to his best for Hibs against Aberdeen in the Betfred Cup. Picture: SNS/Ross Parker

On Tuesday evening the Easter Road were left deflated after exiting the Betfred Cup on penalties to Aberdeen in Leith. Neil Lennon’s men were by far the better team for the majority of the encounter, creating a number of clear cut opportunities while seeing two goals disallowed.

The Northern Irishman was effusive in his praise of his side for their display. On another day Hibs could easily have strolled into the last four of the cup with a three or four goal victory.

If they were to shrug of Thomas Agyepong’s decisive penalty miss and take their performance against the Dons into Saturday’s encounter they could quite easily blow St Mirren away.

They may have to do so without Paul Hanlon who picked up a hamstring niggle and was replaced at the start of extra time on Tuesday.

The 28-year-old may have missed a couple of games so far through injury but he has carried in last season’s form into this campaign. As part of a back three on Tuesday he was offering those penetrating runs down the left which were a feature of his game during Hibs success during 2017-2018.

Hibs will still, of course, be without Jamie Maclaren with the Aussie striker out for a number of weeks with back injury picked up in training last week.

However, Lennon is slowly getting his full complement of players back to his disposal. Captain David Gray, who missed the game during the week, will return and he could be joined by Ofir Marciano who is yet to feature this season due to a finger problem and recent recruit Miquel Nelom.

After a fine all-round performance against Aberdeen, one which Lennon called “brilliant”, there may be reluctance to change too much. That being said, with Hanlon a doubt, Gray returning and Shaw playing the full 120 minutes against midweek, it would not be a surprise to see the Northern Irishman revert to a 4-2-3-1 system.

Kamberi was excellent leading the line as he works his way back to full match sharpness, while the fresh legs of Daryl Horgan could be brought in, with Hyndman supporting through the middle after the most impressive performance in a Hibs shirt during the week.

Lennon has a number of options at his fingertips. The man in the opposition dugout, Oran Kearney, is still searching for his best XI, while he has been searching the free agent market to improve the squad he inherited from former St Mirren and Hibs.

He has completed the signing of striker Simeon Jackson on Friday to go with new goalkeeper Dean Lyness and defender Anton Ferdinand. Kearney should also be boosted by the return of centre-back Jack Baird. Yet, that has been offset by the loss of key midfielders Kyle Magennis and skipper Stephen McGinn.

Kearney appeared to have an immediate impact as the Buddies drew 0-0 with Celtic in his debut match. However, they were soundly beaten 3-0 by Hamilton Academical last week.

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Injuries / suspensions / unavailable

St Mirren - New goalkeeper Dean Lyness has been added to the squad as could Friday’s recruit Simeon Jackson. Jack Baird should recover from the injury which saw him withdraw during the warm-up ahead of last week’s game. Kyle Magennis (hamstring) and Stephen McGinn (knee) have joined defenders Adam Eckersley (Achilles), Josh Heaton (ankle) and Gary MacKenzie (Achilles) plus goalkeeper Danny Rogers (knee) on the sidelines.

Hibs - Paul Hanlon is a doubt after picking up a hamstring problem in the Betfred Cup penalty loss to Aberdeen and Jamie Maclaren is definitely out. There is better news with Ofir Marciano and Miquel Nelom in contention, while David Gray is set to return to the squad.

Magic number

30 - No player has had more crosses than Martin Boyle in the league so far, while he has also recorded the most number of passes which have led to an effort on goal and made the most progressive runs. St Mirren have been playing a right-back on the left-hand side of defence which should play into Boyle’s hands.

Key battle

St Mirren have had their issues defensively, conceding four to Aberdeen, four to Hearts and three to Hamilton. Anton Ferdinand has been brought in to help improve the issue however he has admitted that he is still getting back to his peak sharpness, in a way similar to Florian Kamberi. The Swiss frontman showed against Aberdeen he was getting back to his very best. Ferdinand could be in for a long afternoon if the Hibs forward is at his tantalising best, constantly moving, linking play, twisting and turning, stretching play laterally and vertically.

Key stats

Only rivals Hearts have recorded more shots than Hibs’ 94, while St Mirren have faced 93 shots, the second most in the league. In their eight meetings in the Championship, Hibs and St Mirren’s averaged a tad under three goals per game. There should be plenty of goalmouth action with the majority arriving in favour of Neil Lennon’s men.

Referee

Euan Anderson will take charge of Hibs for only the sixth time in his refereeing career, and the first in the Premiership. The last time he officiated a Hibs game as the man in the middle was against St Mirren in the 2016-2017 season with the Buddies running out 2-0 winners. It will be Anderson’s eighth fixture of the season and the first in the top flight. He has yet to show a red card.

Possible teams

St Mirren (4-4-1-1): Samson; Hodson, Ferdinand, Baird, McGinn; Edwards, Willock, Flynn, Coulson; Smith; Mullen. Subs from: Lyness, Jones, Kpekawa, McShane, Brock-Madsen, MacPherson, Jackson, King, Erhahon, Cooke, Muir.

Hibs (4-2-2-1): Bogdan; Gray, Ambrose, Porteous, Stevenson; Milligan, Mallan; Boyle, Hyndman, Horgan; Kamberi. Subs from: Laidlaw, Marciano, McGregor, Nelom, Hanlon, Mackie, Bartley, Slivka, Agyepong, F Murray, Shaw, Allan, Gullan.

Kick-off: 3pm (supporter information via Hibernian FC)

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