Hibs v Hamilton: Heckingbottom’s debut | Midfield injuries | Agyepong back?
Hibs are back in Premiership action on Saturday afternoon (3pm kickoff) as Paul Heckingbottom takes charge for the first time since being announced as the club’s new head coach.
Hamilton are the visitors to Easter Road as a new era begins in Leith with appealing fixtures against two of the bottom three.
It will be hoped that the match produces a similar result to the last time the Accies were in town. Hibs thumped their opponents 6-0 to record their fourth straight league win. The result saw Hibs sit second in the league after eight fixtures. They had hit 13 goals in four games, conceding only twice.
It was very rosy at Easter Road with the belief that the midfield trio of Mark Milligan, Emerson Hyndman and Stevie Mallan provided a balance which gave flashbacks to John McGinn, Scott Allan and Dylan McGeouch.
However, that should be caveated with the fact that during that run three of Hibs’ opponents were St Mirren, Dundee and the hapless Accies - the current bottom three.
The five fixtures which immediately followed saw Hibs score only twice and fail to win. In the 17 league games since the Hamilton win, the Easter Road side have won just three times.
Progress has been made in the Scottish Cup, including last weekend’s 3-1 win over Raith Rovers to set up a quarter-final clash with Celtic.
Daryl Horgan impressed in the win, while new striker Mark McNulty got off the mark.
Hamilton are in a better place since their last meeting even if they have dropped a place in the league. There will be a familiar face in the opposite technical area with former Hibs player and coach Brian Rice taking over from Martin Canning.
The ex-St Mirren coach has led Accies to a draw and a win in his first two games with a more aesthetically pleasing and positive style of football.
Accies have been boosted by the signing of forwards David McMillan, Steve Davies and George Oakley. The former missed the game against his parent-club St Johnstone but the latter hit a double in the win.
Injuries / suspensions / unavailable
Hibs: Defender Ryan Porteous and winger Martin Boyle are out for the remainder of the season with knee injuries. Creative midfielder Ryan Gauld also misses out with a hamstring strain, while fellow midfielder Marvin Bartley is struggling with a leg issue. Winger Thomas Agyepong is back in training after a muscle issue and could be involved. On-loan Leicester defender Darnell Johnson misses out due to suspension.
Hamilton: David McMillan returns to the squad but full-back Scott McMann remains on the sidelines with broken bones in his hand while forward Marios Ogkmpoe has been pencilled in for a return later this month following a knee injury.
Hibs: Marciano; Gray, McGregor, Hanlon, Stevenson; Milligan; Slivka, Mallan; Horgan; Kamberi, McNulty. Subs from: Bogdan, Dabrowski, Whittaker, Nelom, Mackie, F Murray, Bigirimana, Omeonga, Block, Agyepong, Shaw, Allan, Gullan.
Hamilton: Woods; McGowan, Gordon, Kilgallon, Sowah; Gogic, Mackinnon, Imrie, Boyd; Davies, Oakley. Subs from: Want, Taiwo, Martin, Tshiembe, Keatings, Miller, McMillan, Andreu, Mimnaugh, Fulton.
Magic number - 20
There has not been a goalless draw in the last 20 meetings between the sides. The last 0-0 arrived in September 1998.
Florian Kamberi was desperate to score against Raith Rovers and came very close on a couple of occasions after doing all the hard graft to get into good positions. He will be back on the hunt on Saturday and will come up against Matthew Kilgallon. The centre-back played in the 6-0 reverse earlier in the season but has been a key competent for the Accies whose defence has looked a lot more assured with him in it.
Heckingbottom will be hoping it is third time lucky with Hibs to record a debut win. He lost 4-2 to Ipswich Town in his first match as official Barnlsey manager, while his Leeds debut was a 2-1 defeat at Sheffield United. Hamilton have won just once away from home in the league this season - at Motherwell - and have picked up the most yellow cards (62) in the league.
It will be the first time Alan Muir has officiated a Hibs fixture this season. In 10 games in the Premiership he has shown two red cards and awarded three penalties. He was most recently in charge of Kilmarnock’s goalless draw with Rangers in the Scottish Cup. He was criticised for not sending of the home side’s Alan Power for a high challenge on Ryan Jack. Hibs have lost just six of the 26 matches with Muir in charge.
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