Hibs boss Alan Stubbs today revealed Keith Watson has been ruled out of Sunday’s derby against Hearts, sidelined like his fellow defender David Gray by a hamstring injury.
The on-loan Dundee United player deputised at right back for Gray as Stubbs’ side slipped to defeat against Queen of the South but was missing as Hibs ended a run of three successive losses with a welcome victory over Dumbarton in midweek, the head coach having resorted to a 3-5-2 formation with Jordon Forster making his first start in almost six months in the back three.
But while Gray has been ruled out for up to six weeks, Stubbs believes Watson will miss only a fortnight, the fact he’s ineligible for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Falkirk the following weekend and suspended for the rearranged Championship match at Livingston a few days later limiting the impact of his absence.
Like Gray’s injury, Stubbs disclosed there was no apparent reason for it occurring. He said: “Keith tweaked his hamstring in training on Tuesday. He was just getting ready to make a run when he felt it. David’s was more a turning movement.
“Obviously the two of them are out of Sunday but Jordo came in and did well and he’ll benefit from having those 90 minutes under his belt. That’s why we have a squad.”
Stubbs, however, had better news of midfielders Dylan McGeouch and Scott Robertson in that both should be fit to face Robbie Neilson’s side. McGeouch has sat out Hibs’ last two matches having had an injection in his ankle while Robertson failed to reappear for the second half at Dumbarton.
The head coach said: “Dylan trained on Wednesday, I spoke to him afterwards and there was no reaction so he rejoined the group yesterday. Scott felt a bit of tightness in the game, he was going to see how it was in the second half but with Fraser Fyvie on the bench we didn’t want to take any risks.”
Sunday offers Stubbs his last chance of the season to claim his first win over his Capital neighbours although all three encounters so far have been close, Hearts winning the opening derby at Tynecastle and having to come from behind to claim a draw in the two subsequent matches.
However, while recognising the importance of victory in such a fixture, Stubbs insisted his over-riding concern was another three points to keep Hibs in the chase with Rangers for second place with games rapidly running out.
And he believes the midweek win, which also saw striker Farid El Alagui complete his first 90 minutes since rupturing his Achilles’ tendon at the end of August, has set his side up for the visit of Hearts.
He said: “They went to Dumbarton, not an easy place to go, and I thought they responded the way I would have liked. I knew before the game they were ready and I knew the response I was going to get.”