Steven Whittaker closing in on return to Hibs first team

Steven Whittaker
Steven Whittaker
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Steven Whittaker could be back for Hibs’ midweek match against Hamilton having played the entire 90 minutes of a match just once in the past four months, boss Neil Lennon has revealed.

The 33-year-old has been plagued by a pelvic problem all season and was forced to miss three matches in November as the pain became too great to bear. Whittaker had an injection in the hope that would provide a cure, the Scotland defender returning to action as Hibs faced Hamilton at the SuperSeal Stadium at the end of November. But that was the last time Whittaker played the entire 90 minutes of a match, the former Rangers and Norwich City star managing to feature in only three of Hibs’ games in December.

Since the winter break, Whittaker has not played one minute of first-team action and, given the nature of his injury, he won’t be involved in today’s match on Kilmarnock’s artificial surface at Rugby Park.

However, Lennon believes he has a chance of making his squad for the visit of Accies on Wednesday night and will almost certainly be available for the next Edinburgh derby nine days later. He said: “Steven has been training for a week or so but the artificial pitch today isn’t ideal so he won’t be involved. He may be back for the Hamilton game. But then we have a free weekend to get him back for the games coming up which would be great.”

Lennon has disclosed that winger Brandon Barker could make a return to action much sooner than anticipated after the on-loan Manchester City youngster suffered a hamstring tear only minutes into the victory over Rangers at Ibrox three weeks ago.

He said: “We thought we were looking at three months but it now seems as if it will be a lot shorter and he is delighted with that. It was a real blow for him – and us – because he had been playing really well. He’s perhaps two or three weeks away, the derby might be just a bit too soon for him but it will be good to get him back before the split.”

Club captain David Gray is another on the casualty list who is making good progress as is goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw and both could be back in contention in April. Laidlaw has been out since needing surgery on his right shoulder injured in training while Gray, who has endured an injury-ravaged season, sustained damage to his Achilles’ tendon early in a friendly match during the club’s winter break in Portugal.

Lennon said: “David is another three or four weeks away and Ross will be back in April, hopefully.”