Hibs boss Pat Fenlon believes Paul Hanlon will be fit for Sunday’s William Hill Scottish Cup clash with Kilmarnock after the defender missed the first leg of the double header against the Rugby Park outfit with a hip injury.
Fenlon was forced to reshape his back four for last night’s SPL encounter – three goals in a dramatic finale ensuring the game ended in a 2-2 draw – after taking the decision not to risk Hanlon, the only outfield star to have played in every minute of every game up to that stage.
But, Fenlon revealed, the former Scotland Under-21 captain is already back in training, raising hopes he’ll be on the team coach when it departs for the quarter-final in Ayrshire.
He said: “Paul has been carrying a bit of a hip injury. He got a bang, I think away to Aberdeen in the league, and he has a bit of heavy bruising around the hip area. He did a bit of light training on Tuesday and again yesterday but I didn’t want to risk another bang on it at this stage which could have put him out for a while.
“Fingers crossed he should be all right for the weekend.”
Fenlon’s reshuffle saw left back Ryan McGivern partner skipper James McPake in central defence, flanked by Alan Maybury on the right and Lewis Stevenson on the left, but the Northern Ireland defender admitted that, like his manager, he hopes Hanlon will return. McGivern, who sparked that incredible goal rush by cancelling out Sammy Clingan’s opener for Killie before the sides swapped further goals through Jude Winchester and Leigh Griffiths, said: “I prefer left back to centre half but hopefully Paul will be back as he is a key player for us.”
McGivern revealed his 85th-minute header was only his second goal in professional football. His first came more than four years ago when he scored for Morecambe in an English League Two match against Aldershot after being farmed out by Manchester City.
But he admitted he thought it was going to count for nothing as Winchester snatched a spectacular second for Killie before Griffiths’ 19th goal of the season earned Hibs a point.
McGivern said: “I thought it was game over when they scored again, but we showed great character to come back again and we even had a chance at the death when we might have taken all three points. We are disappointed we didn’t, but it could have been worse.”
Now all eyes are on Sunday and McGivern added: “If we go there, don’t play well and sneak a winner in the 89th minute to put us into the semi-final then there won’t be too many complaints.”