Goals boost Hibs striker Darryl Duffy's claim for debut against United

DARRYL DUFFY has staked his claim for an Easter Road debut in tonight's SPL clash with Dundee United after grabbing his first goals in a green-and-white shirt.

The striker has endured a testing four months at Easter Road on a season-long loan deal from Bristol Rovers, breaking a bone in his right foot during a training session.

But now the 26-year-old is ready to force his way into Colin Calderwood's plans with the Hibs boss having revealed both Duffy and fellow long-term injury victim Merouane Zemmama are on stand-by for the visit of United.

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While neither player is likely to feature from the start given the length of time they've been sidelined, the Evening News can disclose the former Rangers, Falkirk, Hull City and Swansea star made his case for a place on the bench with two goals during a "bounce" match with Clyde on Monday morning.

The hitman played more than an hour of that game and while Moroccan playmaker Zemmama, who has been out since March having ruptured the cruciate ligament in his right knee, has also returned to full training, it would appear Duffy could claim a place on the bench tonight.

While conceding both Duffy and Zemmama aren't yet ready to play a full 90 minutes, Calderwood said: "They are both training, Zouma played in a little game between ourselves last week and Darryl played 65 minutes the other morning so it is time to start thinking about involving them. They can both score and are slightly different to what we have. They wouldn't have a long-lasting period in the game but they might have an impact so we'll sit down and think about having them on the bench."

The return of Duffy and Zemmama will provide Calderwood's squad with a welcome boost as Hibs bid to haul themselves away from the basement area of the SPL table, while the manager was also hopeful that Sol Bamba will prove his fitness following a hamstring problem which ruled him out of the Boxing Day match with Aberdeen.

Bamba has trained since and Calderwood said: "If there is no reaction, he will play."

The presence of Bamba would also most likely see Francis Dickoh return to partner him in central defence, Chris Hogg and Paul Hanlon having replaced the pair at the weekend. Calderwood, however, is well aware United haven't played in more than a month due to the wintry weather and that, he believes, could prove to be a telling factor, urging his players to "come on strong" as the game progresses.

He said: "They'll be fresh having had a mid-season break but it will be interesting to see how they come out of it. As much as you want to start well you still want to be strong at the end and I think that will be an important part of tonight's match."

The match kicks off at the more unusual time of 7.15pm.

Meanwhile, Super League Turkish club Eskisehirspor are reported to be preparing a 250,000 January transfer window bid for striker Derek Riordan.