The return of John McGinn and Fraser Fyvie in the new year could negate the need for Hibs to enlist the services of another midfielder.
While Easter Road head coach Neil Lennon is delighted to have Kris Commons in as emergency cover until mid-January, to help plug gaps caused by an ongoing injury crisis, he said he may not bring in anyone else when that loan deal expires.
Impressed with the way McGinn and Fyvie had combined in the middle of the park before ankle and groin injuries sidelined them, he is hoping they will be able to reprise those performances when they return to full fitness. That, he said, would allow him to focus his attentions and the available budget on other areas of the team.
“I think with John and Fraser coming back in that’s pretty handy,” said Lennon. “So whether we look to strengthen in that area or not is another thing because the two of them were playing really well before they both got injured simultaneously. So we are looking at areas to improve the team and we’ll try and do that in January.”
At the end of November, Scotland international McGinn finally admitted defeat in his stand-off with a persistent ankle injury. Calcification of the bone had been posing problems throughout the early part of the season but he was able to play through the pain. However, increasingly bothered and having accepted he would not make it all the way through the season, he took action in the hope he would be back in top form for Hibs’ charge for promotion.
The blow for Lennon was in losing Fyvie to a groin strain at the same time. Added to a long-term injury to James Keatings and compounded by Dylan McGeouch picking up an ankle knock in training, he was struggling to find personnel to fill the void in the heart of the team. Lennon was given special dispensation to bring in Celtic’s Commons. With Keatings and McGeouch already back in contention, Lennon is hoping there will be no glitches in McGinn and Fyvie’s rehabilitation. That would free him up to channel his finances elsewhere.
“They are doing well and hopefully they will both be back early in the new year,” said Lennon. “John has had surgery and there is no specific time limit and we will not rush it. Fraser is making steady progress on the groin tear. We have missed John and Fraser as they have dove-tailed quite nicely together but Andrew Shinnie has played very well in any position we have asked him to play.”
The required reshuffles have affected the team’s performances in recent weeks, with Lennon stating that greater consistency is required if they are to pull away from the chasing pack.
“The last couple of games we have not started well but the second-half performances have been very good,” he said.
“What I want to do now is piece the two halves together and get the complete performance that we were giving up until two or three weeks ago.”
This week has seen him casting his eye over a couple of trialists and he said that while the expected return of key performers may mean a switch in focus, he does still intend to do some business during the transfer window as Hibs try to fend off Championship title rivals Dundee United.
“I wouldn’t say [we will bring in] that many,” he added. “But you are always looking for that one who may make the extra special difference. We’ve had a couple of players in so we’ve been assessing them over the last week or so. I am not going to give you the specifics.”
United have been linked with several names as they try to strengthen and Lennon has acknowledged that any January dealings could have a massive say in the outcome of the league campaign. Locked together on the same points tally as Ray McKinnon’s men, only a superior goal difference has kept Hibs at the top but after three seasons in the second tier, the Easter Road side are determined to make the step back up to the Premiership, eyeing another three points against Raith Rovers tomorrow.
“It is exciting,” Lennon said of the title tussle. “There is always ups and downs and I had forgotten what it was like for a while. It is interesting and it is a challenge.
“But we are top of the league, we are the big team in the league, although I think Dundee United are a big team as well.
“There’s a title race going on at the minute, and everyone will want to put a dent in that.”