Neil Lennon backs ‘deadly’ James Keatings to be a major asset for Hibs this term



Hibernian manager Neil Lennon has described James Keatings as “deadly” after backing the striker to play a major part in their promotion push this season.

The 24-year-old was reduced to a bit-part part role in the Hibees’ Europa League exit, coming off the bench in both legs against Brondby as the capital club succumbed to a heartbreaking exit on penalties.

However, he was handed a chance to stake his claim for a starting berth on Sunday afternoon against Birmingham City and responded with a superb display and clinical winning goal in a 1-0 triumph.

(Pic: HIbsTV)

Speaking after the match, Keatings insisted he had no intention to spending the final year of his Hibs contract sitting on the bench.

And Lennon has indicated that the former Hearts and Celtic front-man, who scored 12 times last term despite failing secure a regular spot in the first XI, could be a major part of his plans.

“James is deadly,” lauded the Northern Irishman. “He really is quite an asset to have. He has had a couple of wee niggling injuries and that is why he has not started games so far.

“However, he is fully fit now and playing 90 minutes against Birmingham will have done him the world of good.

“He has goals in him – he is a natural finisher – and is a really intelligent player. He takes responsibility to lead the line very well.

“As well as his goal on Saturday, he took one terrific free-kick and I was very pleased with his contribution.”

Lennon also heaped praise on marathon man Liam Fontaine after a lack of defensive options meant the experienced defender had to face Birmingham – just three days after playing the full 120 minutes against Brondby.

He told HibsTV: “I didn’t have much of a choice but to play Liam because we were running out of bodies!

“But Liam is a fit lad and I told him just to ease his way through the game. You don’t want to overdo it with him but he’ll get plenty of rest through this week. He played very well and is a brilliant guy to have around the place.”’