Returning Hibs player can 'change the dynamic' against Rangers at Hampden

Looking for an edge as they try to turn near misses in the cups and against Rangers into a victory and progress at Hampden this afternoon, Hibs will welcome Christian Doidge back into the first team fold.

Hibs manager Jack Ross is glad to have Christian Doidge back among his options for the cup semi-final against Rangers at Hampden. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Hibs manager Jack Ross is glad to have Christian Doidge back among his options for the cup semi-final against Rangers at Hampden. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

A player who was a key component in Hibs successes last season, as one third of an attacking triumvirate that scored goals for fun, his absence has been notable despite his team-mates’ ability to still stake a claim for the Premiership lead early doors and subsequently manoeuvre themselves into their fifth successive cup semi final.

The early return, after suffering an Achilles tear that was expected to keep him on the sidelines until the end of the year, could be the perfect pick-me-up for a team that was on a run of four defeats when Covid prompted an enforced halt to training and matches.

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Negotiating 45 minutes of a bounce game against Dundee earlier in the week, the 29-year-old Welshman, who has signed a contract extension, may not be a one-man answer to Hibs recent woes but he does offer manager Jack Ross something he's had very little of after the club failed to enlist striking reinforcements in the transfer window - options.

“It’s a huge boost for us because his goals to game ratio has been great since he came here," said Ross.

“He’s difficult for defenders to play against. He gives us a different option in terms of how we want to play, particularly at this time of year.

“It’s an interesting one because we had a lot of good results without him - that’s important to know. We continued our good form earlier in the season without him but what it does highlight is when you don’t have depth, either to start or change games, it does become harder.

“Having him back in the squad gives us different options to start games and to change the dynamic of a game from the bench.”

Together with Kevin Nisbet and Martin Boyle, he posed a constant goal threat last term, while his willingness to tirelessly defend from the front was an asset.

“It will be like a new signing and we’re getting him back probably a month ahead of schedule, which is a big bonus,” acknowledged Ross.

“If you take those goals and assists out of any team in the league it would be a blow. Subsequently, the responsibility has fallen on Martin and Kevin. We've had to keep going to them, even if they are off form or low in confidence. And, we’ve been fairly restricted in how we can play. In Christian's absence we have had one natural striker in our whole squad, which wasn't brilliant from our point of view but it was what it was. This gives us the ability to play a front two and if you ask any of our forwards, having Christian back will help all of them.

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“We've been restricted in terms of natural strikers and Christian very much is that, with his aerial ability, strength, intelligence of movement etc, all big factors. It's been really good to see him back on the training pitch. Sometimes you forget how good a player is when you don't see him for a while, so it's been a nice reminder to me of how good he is.”

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