Pinau piles on the pressure at Hibs

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HIBS manager Mixu Paatelainen admits reserve goal machine Steve Pinau is turning the heat up on his established front three.

The 20-year-old French forward netted a double in the Easter Road second string's 2-2 draw with Celtic at Almondvale yesterday to bring his tally to five goals in his last four outings.

Pinau netted his only goal for the first team after coming on as a substitute in the 4-3 League Cup defeat at home to Morton not long after he'd moved to Hibs on loan from Genoa in August.

Having seen his first-team opportunities confined to outings from the substitutes' bench, reserve matches have offered the little hitman his best chance to catch the eye of Paatelainen.

With Derek Riordan, Colin Nish and Steven Fletcher enduring a collective off-day in the 0-0 draw against St Mirren at Love Street on Saturday, the Hibs boss admits Pinau is knocking on the door for a starting berth.

"It's looking good for Steve," said Paatelainen. "He's improving all the time and scoring goals for the reserves and that's all you can ask of him. He's still young and he's getting used to different football, but he's certainly putting his claim forward.

"I'd have no problem about handing him a start. I've used him as a sub in the last few matches, so first-team football is not totally foreign to him.

"It's really good to have someone like that banging the goals in for the reserves because it helps keep the current front three on their toes."

Yesterday's reserve clash also saw Alan O'Brien make his comeback after two months sidelined by a knee injury.

The Irish winger lasted 45 minutes, before being replaced at the interval after feeling his calf. But Paatelainen insisted O'Brien, who was in the best form of his Hibs career before being crocked, has a chance of making the bench for Saturday's visit of Inverness if he can prove his fitness over the next few days.

"He felt his calf muscles were a bit tight at half time, but that's only to be expected as he's been out for so long. It's nothing to worry about. If he's fit he'll be considered for Saturday."

Meanwhile Mario Knaller, the Austrian Under-21 goalkeeper who was on trial at Easter Road, has headed back to his homeland after sustaining an injury in training. Paatelainen expects him back in Edinburgh for another crack at winning a deal once he returns to fitness.

&#149 ST MIRREN last night issued a public apology to Dean Shiels after the Hibs player was taunted over the loss of his right eye.

Shiels condemned the supporters after the 0-0 draw, as did Hibs boss Mixu Paatelainen and yesterday the Paisley club followed suit.

A statement released by the club said: "St Mirren wish to make an unreserved apology to Hibernian player, Dean Shiels as no player should be subjected to that level of personal abuse

"St Mirren are a family and community Club and have a policy on Unacceptable Conduct in place which allows the Club to eject and ban supporters for both home and away matches."