Neil Lennon plugs gaps as Hibs bid to protect to spot

The mounting number of players sidelined at Hibernian has left manager Neil Lennon with selection issues. One strategy has been to bring in Kris Commons on a loan deal in the hope of finding a short-term solution, but Martin Boyle believes that there are players already at the Easter Road club who will be desperate to prove that answers lie within.

Martin Boyle has dropped back to Hibs decimated midfield recently, but may now return to the frontline. Picture: SNS.
Martin Boyle has dropped back to Hibs decimated midfield recently, but may now return to the frontline. Picture: SNS.

Injuries to John McGinn, Fraser Fyvie and Dylan McGeouch, among others, have forced a number of reshuffles in recent matches, with others being elevated to the starting line-up and afforded the chance to make a first-team place their own. Boyle is fully aware of the importance of making such opportunities count and he has urged others to follow his example.

The midfielder-cum-forward has had to be patient, filling in where and when was necessary but finding it tough to hold down a starting berth. Having been pushed into a striking role after James Keatings was forced out injured and a dip in form led to Jason Cummings being benched, the speedy attacker has capitalised and he is now urging others to make the most of any match time they get while others are on the road to recovery.

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“It’s unfortunate all the injuries seem to have come in the same area and we’re struggling there,” admitted the 23-year-old, “but you have young Scott Martin, Marvin [Bartley] has come in and there will be other young boys as well. Scott did a job at the start of the season and was unlucky to be dropped. But he kept his head held high and hopefully he can come in and do a job if he gets the chance.

“I think staying patient is the main thing. If you keep working hard you’ll get your chance and then you need to grab the shirt when it is handed to you. The manager has told us we’ll keep it if we are doing well.

“It can be a boost when boys are coming in, especially young boys who are keen to make an impression. We have a good squad, everybody has each other’s backs. So that’s the most important thing.

“It’s been a boost for me replacing Jason over these last few weeks. He was the league’s top goalscorer and probably still is at the moment. He’s been working hard in training and injuries have got him back in so everything can quickly change and it’s all about keeping the shirt when you get it and producing on the pitch.”

Four goals in his six starting appearances since the end of October, Boyle has been getting into his stride. His rhythm was upset when he drew a blank at Tannadice two weeks ago, with Dundee United’s Cammy Bell saving his penalty.

Then last time out he was asked to drop deeper to help plug some of the voids in the middle of the park as the absence of regular midfielders became a bigger problem.

“I think I’ve played just about every position for Hibs except defence,” he said. “I think any player can be adaptable. Andrew Shinnie was moved deeper last week and I played attacking midfield, getting on the half-turn and stretching the defence. I think I did okay.

“I always enjoy my time at Hibs, I love coming to training but you want to be playing games. It is about remaining patient, catching the gaffer’s eye in training and taking 
your chance when it comes. Hopefully I’ve done that.”

Commons is expected to start against Morton in this evening’s league encounter, which could allow Boyle to spearhead the attack as Hibernian seek to safeguard their position at the top of the Championship.

But Boyle knows that the club will be tested by more than their internal selection worries, admitting that on top of the difficulty of trying to overcome Jim Duffy’s dogged side, the dated Cappielow ground poses a number of problems.

“I think they have always been a good team and Cappielow is always a tough place to go,” he said. “They have good players and a young team going forward. They have already been to a League Cup semi-final so I’m sure they have high hopes.

“It is a tight pitch – I’m trying not to think about it until the time comes – with a small dressing room. As soon as we get a touch of the ball they will be in our faces, the fans will be on our backs.

“But we’ll be ready for that and I’m sure everyone is looking forward to it.

“Places like Dumbarton, Queen of the South, Morton – tight pitches can be tough because we like to play an expansive game. We have a few bigger guys this season which might help us, playing off flick-ons from Brian [Graham] and Holty [Grant Holt]. Sometimes you need to adapt.”