Scottish Championship - Saturday 25/02/17 - KO 5.15pm - Easter Road
Odds (Ladbrokes): Hibs: 4/9; Draw 10/3; Dunfermline 6/1
Two teams that have enjoyed a run of good results in recent months suffered meet at Easter Road on Saturday evening, a game that is being shown live on BBC Alba with a 5.15pm kick-off time. Hibs have won both previous meetings with Dunfermline this season. The first game, in Edinburgh in August, seemed to be heading for a draw until a defensive slip-up allowed Jason Cummings to score Hibs' winner. The return game at East End Park was also evenly matched until a deflected goal gave Hibs their opener, after which they went onto completely dominate the second half.
1 defeat in 18 League games; undefeated in the past 9; 7 points clear at the top of the Championship; and having just recorded a resounding win in the Scottish Cup over city rivals Hearts: all facts that make Hibs a formidable opponent for almost any team in Scotland. With a home support that potentially ranks as the third or fourth biggest in the country, and being the current Scottish Cup holders, Hibs have the Premiership in their sights and will provide a huge test for Dunfermline tomorrow. However, it was only 6 days ago that manager Neil Lennon publically criticised his players following a 1-1 draw in Kirkcaldy against Raith - a venue that saw Dunfermline win, convincingly, by 2 goals to nil last month. Lennon got the reaction he was looking for in the midweek Cup win over Hearts, and has his main players John McGinn and Jason Cummings on form going into tomorrow's game.
Here is the current Championship table:
The Pars return to League business for the first time since February 4, when they lost their 9 game unbeaten League run (11 games in all competitions) with a 2-0 loss at Falkirk. The following 2 games resulted in a pair of 1-1 draws against Premiership Hamilton in the Scottish Cup, games that saw enough chances created to win, and only a wrongly-awarded penalty in the replay with 3 minutes remaining depriving Allan Johnston's team a quarter final place. A trip to Easter Road will be the biggest test faced for several months, and anything taken from the game will be seen almost as a bonus. The bookies' odds (Dunfermline are 6/1 to win) reflect the difficulty of the fixture.
Injuries: Ben Richards-Everton, Ryan Williamson, Callum Fordyce
Allan Johnston prefers a settled team and rarely deviates from a 4-4-2 formation. This might be a game where a more pragmatic approach is required - playing with 2 wingers could see the central midfield overrun, and there could be a case to add a third central midfielder and play a less expansive game.
Andy Geggan, who missed the Cup replay at Hamilton through injury, is likely to be fit, and I would have him replace Lewis Martin at right back.
I would play a 4-1-3-2 formation for this game, with Nat Wedderburn guarding the back 4, and Rhys McCabe brought into midfield, alongside John Herron, and with Kallum Higginbotham as a third central midfielder as opposed to playing on the wing in a 4-4-2. This would see Paul McMullan drop out. Had there been a taller, more physical option in attack, I would have gone with one striker and retained McMullan. However, none of the current strikers are suited to playing alone up front.
Preferred starting 11, with squad numbers:
Tomorrow: Game Day image, then later in the evening match report/opinion with photos and Pars player ratings.