Pat FENLON today revealed he was “more or less there” in deciding his Scottish Cup final line-up after watching a shadow Hibs side lose the Easter Road outfit’s last SPL match of the season.
Fenlon took the opportunity to rest a string of first-team regulars against Inverness Caley, making eight changes to the side which had secured survival in the top flight five days earlier with a 4-0 demolition of relegation rivals Dunfermline.
With an eye on the historic all-Edinburgh final at Hampden, out went the likes of skipper James McPake, goalkeeper Mark Brown, Jorge Claros, Pa Kujabi, Lewis Stevenson, Isaiah Osbourne and Paul Hanlon as Fenlon gave others their chance to stake a claim to be chosen to face Hearts.
Fenlon had insisted there was still time for some to impress but after going down 2-0 to Terry Butcher’s side with a display which the Irishman admitted hadn’t merited any return from the game, there will be a few players anxiously waiting to discover the 16 who will strip for action on Saturday.
The Hibs boss conceded that with so many changes and Hibs SPL status safe, he had expected the long trip north to be something of an anti-climax with all eyes now on Hampden. But, he declared, he had been looking for a better performance regardless.
He said: “The big goal for us was staying in the SPL and we made sure we did that with a great performance but I am just disappointed we did not follow it up. We didn’t deserve to take anything out of the game. It had a scrappy, end-of-season feel to it and I’m glad it is out of the way.”
Fenlon’s full focus is now on attempting to end Hibs’ 110-year wait for the Scottish Cup, the final preparations being put in place during a four-day training camp on the outskirts of Dublin with, the Irishman revealed, his mind already made up to a fair degree.
He said: “There are one or two areas where we might change things around but the 11 is more or less there at this stage.”
Asked if any of those who had played in the Highlands had done enough to be considered, Fenlon replied: “There were one or two decent performances but there was not enough in terms of us playing as a team and as a unit.”
Fenlon had revealed in the days before the Caley trip that both Claros and Kujabi were carrying knocks picked up in the win over the Pars but, he said, the pair had been left out purely as a precautionary move, insisting that had it been necessary, they’d have played.
And Fenlon believes Matt Doherty will be fit despite Hibs, having used all three substitutes, were forced to play with ten men for the final few minutes after the Irish Under-19 defender was forced to limp off after a clash with Caley’s Billy McKay.
Doherty looked in distress immediately after the incident but was able to join his team-mates to warm-down following the final whistle.
While the full extent of his knock will be assessed over the next couple of days, Fenlon was optimistic saying: “Matt got a bang, but he is a young, fit lad so he should be okay.”