BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
HIBERNIAN could be bolstered by the return of as many as five players when they are back in action after their ‘international break’.
After watching his side rack up a fourth consecutive league defeat at the weekend, furious head coach Alan Stubbs warned that many players were turning in performances that placed their starting places in danger.
And the Easter Road boss is hopeful of having a handful of players available again to strengthen his options for a hectic run-in to the end of the season.
The capital outfit could be nine points adrift of second-placed Falkirk by the time they travel to face St Mirren a week on Saturday and will be under serious pressure in their bid to win promotion back to the Premiership.
But Stubbs will be able to welcome back on-loan Celtic midfielder Liam Henderson from suspension and may also have a quartet of injured first-team regulars back in the fold.
Midfielders Fraser Fyvie and Dylan McGeouch, defender Paul Hanlon and winger Danny Carmichael have been absent in recent week and have restricted Stubbs’ ability to make changes to his struggling side.
However, they are all showing signs of progress ahead of the pivotal point in a campaign that is in danger of going quickly downhill.
Stubbs said: “The injured players are doing good, thankfully.
“I’m very hopeful that by the time we come back from the international break, we’ll have at least three of them back – Paul, Fraser and, we’re very hopeful, Dylan.
“There’s a possibility that Dan Carmichael could be back as well.
“If that’s the case then we’ll be at full strength.
“The break’s come at a good time for us, because when we come back we’ll obviously have Liam back from suspension as well.”
Meanwhile, Hibs will definitely be without the services of keeper Mark Oxley for next month’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Dundee United after their hopes of appealing his suspension were dashed.
The former Hull City player was cautioned in last week’s quarter-final replay against Inverness Caley Thistle after a head knock dislodged a contact lens.
The 25-year-old initially needed lengthy treatment and then indicated to the Hibs bench for further assistance for his blurred vision when waiting to take a goal-kick.
However, referee Stephen Finnie booked the Easter Road number one for time wasting, earning him a second yellow card of the competition and an automatic one-match ban.
Head coach Alan Stubbs last week indicated the club’s intention to explore all avenues in a bid to overturn the suspension.
However, with appeals against yellow cards only permitted in cases of simulation and mistaken identity, Hibs were denied that opportunity and, with the deadline for launching such a process having now passed, Oxley’s ban stands.
The Easter Road outfit will now have to field the untried 21-year-old Otso Virtanen, who made his debut as an 88th-minute substitute for Oxley against Inverness, or maybe even call goalkeeping coach Alan Combe back out of retirement for the trip to Hampden.