Hibs team news blow as Paul Hanlon misses out on Rijeka match

Paul Hanlon will not feature for Hibs in the second leg of the club’s Conference League qualifying tie against Rijeka.

The club captain did not travel out to Croatia with the rest of the squad on Tuesday due to the head knock he sustained against their rivals for a Euro play-off spot last week.

Injured when he contested a free-kick early on in the 1-1 draw at Easter Road, he was bandaged up and played the remainder of the match, playing a vital role in containing Rijeka’s Swiss dangerman Josip Drmic.

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But he only managed 45 minutes of Sunday’s Premiership victory over Ross County, with Darren McGregor replacing him after the interval.

Hibs captain Paul Hanlon had to leave the action early against Ross County due to the head injury sustained against Rijeka. He has also missed out on the return leg in Croatia. Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group

After that match his manager Jack Ross explained that the move had been precautionary and stated his belief that the Scotland international would be fit for this evening’s key European trip.

Explaining that the gash above his eye had reopened, he said they wanted to give it more time to heal ahead of their Balkans trip.

But time was against Hanlon and when his team-mates flew out on Tuesday, he did not join them as he waited at home to recuperate.

Ross can again call on the experienced McGregor as Hibs look to close out the tie and book a spot in the next round. There they would face either Bohemians or PAOK in the final round before the Conference League group stages and guaranteed European action into December.

But, while there is back-up in most areas of the Hibs line-up, options are limited in the middle of defence and Hanlon’s injury will have intensified the hunt for a new central defender.

The club has made no secret of the fact that position features high on the shopping list and have been strongly linked with bids for St Johnstone’s Jamie McCart as they work on bringing in reinforcements. So far, though, they have been stymied.

They also have cover in the guise of youngsters such as young Jack Brydon who shone on loan spells with Edinburgh City and Stenhousemuir last season and is viewed as a longer-term first team prospect.

But, with just over two weeks of the current transfer window left, Hanlon’s injury has emphasised the need to bring in extra cover and competition in the heart of the backline.

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