Why Jack Ross should shake up his Hibs team selection for Kilmarnock clash

Hibs travel to Kilmarnock on Saturday as they begin their second cycle of fixtures.

By Patrick McPartlin
Saturday, 24th October 2020, 7:00 am
Jack Ross deep in discussion with assistant John Potter at the Hibernian Training Centre
Jack Ross deep in discussion with assistant John Potter at the Hibernian Training Centre

The Ayrshire side were the visitors to Easter Road on the opening day of the campaign with the hosts running out 2-1 winners. Can they make it six points out of six at Rugby Park this weekend?

Groundhog day

It’s worth remembering that on the opening day of the season, Hibs squeezed past a determined Killie side thanks to a first-half double from Martin Boyle. The winger was playing as an auxiliary striker with Christian Doidge not fully fit and the decision by Jack Ross paid off as Boyle sealed the points.

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Starting a winger up front when an out-and-out striker is available (and due a goal, by the way) may seem like unnecessary tinkering, but Boyle has played the position before and can be a threat.

Pace

Alex Dyer will almost certainly select a back four with Kirk Broadfoot and one of Clevid Dikamona or Stuart Findlay alongside him at centre back.

All three are rather handy in the air and while Doidge has an impressive record of winning aerial balls, having a pacy player to receive the ball to feet could help Hibs get a foothold in the game early on, just as it did on August 1.

Play 3-5-2

There are a few reasons for this. One: playing a back three negates the need for either Lewis Stevenson or Josh Doig to cope one-on-one with Chris ‘loves a goal against Hibs’ Burke; two: it gives Hibs more bodies in midfield and a better chance against Killie’s likely midfield trio of Gary Dicker, Alan Power, and Aaron Tshibola, and three: it still allows a tactical switch without necessarily having to bring on sub – just the way Jack Ross likes it.

Personnel

The goalkeeper and defence picks itself – Ofir Marciano in goals, and a back three of Paul McGinn, Ryan Porteous, and Paul Hanlon.

Bring back Josh Doig at left wingback for his attacking output, and start Melker Hallberg at right wingback for similar reasons. The Swede operated at right-back against Cove Rangers and Forfar Athletic and while Killie are a step up in quality, he won’t need to focus as much on the defensive side with Paul McGinn behind him and his assist for Kevin Nisbet at Cove illustrated what he can do in an attacking sense. A midfield trio of Joe Newell, Alex Gogic, and Stevie Mallan / Kyle Magennis offers graft, composure, and the chance of a long-range howitzer, and Nisbet partnering Boyle up front is a front two most defences would rather not face.

Additionally, Doidge probably played more minutes than he was expecting during the League Cup games and may benefit from a rest – and having him as an option from the bench would be no bad thing.

Points in the bag?

This will be a stern test for Hibs – Killie have won their last three in the league, including victory at Livingston, and the Betfred Cup defeat by Dunfermline was contested by a makeshift team.

Hibs have the strength in depth to take the three points. They played well in Dingwall, created chances, and kept a clean sheet. But football is a results business and a win is a win, regardless of how it’s achieved.

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