Neil Lennon: Hibs 'down to bare bones but strong enough to win derby'

By Brian McLauchlinBBC Scotland
Scottish Premiership: Hibernian v Heart of Midlothian
Venue: Easter Road Stadium, Edinburgh Date: Saturday, 29 December Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland 810MW/DAB/online; live text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Hibernian manager Neil Lennon has no regrets about not asking for a derby postponement, despite a long list of absentees for the visit of Hearts.

With three players called up by Australia, the Easter Road club could have requested a change of dates.

Regular defenders Ryan Porteous and Lewis Stevenson are also missing, along with Miquel Nelom and Thomas Agyepong, while Marvin Bartley is a doubt.

"We want to play the game, we are six unbeaten," said Lennon.

"It's all right for Hibs fans talking in hindsight but we still have a team that is strong enough to go out there to be competitive and win the game.

"We could have called the game off and there would have been a huge outcry and a lot of disappointment. You also don't know when you would play the rescheduled fixture and even then we could have a lot of injuries by that time as well.

"You are damned if you do and damned if you don't. I don't see the point in putting it back for a few months.

"If you call off the Hearts game do you then call off the Elgin game (in the Scottish Cup), do you call off the Motherwell game if the Australia boys are still in the tournament? You could be six weeks without a game."

Martin Boyle, Mark Milligan and Jamie Maclaren are the trio away on Asian Cup duty, while goalkeepers Ofir Marciano and Ross Laidlaw are also on the injured list and full-back Charalampos Mavrias has left the club with his short-term contract due to expire.

Bartley has returned to training this week but the midfielder has not featured since early December.

"We're down to the bare bones," said Lennon, who welcomed experienced defenders Paul Hanlon and David Gray back to his squad for the 1-1 draw at Rangers on Boxing Day.

"But we've been running on fumes in terms of the squad for weeks anyway and the lads are playing well. They've looked more like themselves, which augers well.

"They are due a break and that will come at the right time but right now we're just focused on winning the derby."

Lennon aims to add to his squad next month, saying he "expects some business".

"We definitely need to freshen things up with quality and a bit of pace as well," he said. "We're hoping to get them in as early as possible."

On the possibility of a return for Scott Allan, Lennon said: "He's a player we admire but I'm sure there will be a lot of clubs interested.

"He had a spectacular second half of last season for us (on loan from Celtic) and it seemed to be a good fit but there's been no talks at all."

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