Hibernian’s Lewis Stevenson is in a race against time to prove his fitness ahead of Saturday’s Scottish Cup semi-final derby. Photo by Craig Foy/SNS Group
Lewis Stevenson, who was part of the League Cup winning side in 2007 and one of the men who will go down in history after he helped end the Leith side’s 114-year Scottish Cup drought, in 2016, hobbled away from Rugby Park in a protective boot after he rolled his ankle in the 1-0 triumph over Kilmarnock last weekend.
Jack Ross, who won one and lost one of his first two derbies as Hibs manager, had hoped that the injury would improve in time for the trip to Hampden, but the prognosis is not looking good and the 32-year-old left-back looks set to miss out on the Capital derby.
Overshadowed by young Josh Doig when the Premiership season got under way, the veteran defender had forced his way back into the starting line-up at the beginning of October.
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But, in what could be the only derby of the season against Championship Hearts, Scotland U-19 starlet Doig now looks likely to step back in.
In more positive news, the Hibs boss is hoping to have at least one of his wingers back to bolster his attacking options.
Drey Wright and Jamie Murphy, who are recovering from groin and hamstring niggles respectively, came close to being in contention for the game with Kilmarnock, but it was decided not to risk them due to the plastic pitch. Their rehabilitation remains on track, though, and there is an expectation that at least one of them will feature against Robbie Neilson’s Hearts side.
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Peter Haring is approaching full fitness after so long on the sidelines.
The Jambos’ powerhouse midfielder played for the club in the 2019 final against Celtic, on the field for 81 minutes before finally succumbing to a persistent groin injury. It took him 16 long months to return to action.
At times, there were fears Haring might never play again as he tried to get to the root of the problem. Operations, specialists, rest. You name it, the 27-year-old tried it. It was tough for him, even miserable at times. But now, approaching full fitness after such a lengthy time on the sidelines, Haring is raring to go again.
His comeback match was against Inverness earlier in the month, when he came on for eight minutes. His first start since that gut-wrenching 2-1 Hampden loss to Celtic arrived a week later against Raith Rovers, when he captained the team and played the full 90 minutes in a 3-1 win. Only appearances from the bench have come thereafter, but manager Robbie Neilson is clearly easing him back in. He is a key man for the Hearts boss.
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Neilson may be tempted to start Haring against a more dangerous opponent in Hibs. He adds so much to the Hearts midfield. If the Austrian does play, he won’t have negative thoughts of previous visits to Hampden. He classes his last visit there as one of the highlights of his career.
“Zero regrets, absolutely,” says Haring when asked, in an exclusive interview with the Evening News, if he wishes he hadn’t played in that final. “I was talking to our gaffer at that time, Craig Levein, quite a lot and I even wanted to play the week before when we played Celtic in the league. I was desperate to play that game, but he said no, you’re only playing the cup final which was probably a good decision from him. But I’ve got absolutely zero regrets – it’s one of my best memories I’ve got in my football career so far.
“I didn’t obviously think it would take this long to come back. Even when I was injured, I always thought, ‘it can’t take much longer’, and it always did, so you never know what is going to happen, but overall I’ve got really good memories about Hampden. Even though we lost the final, it’s still a great memory in my head. It was a good game from us as well, against Celtic. It’s the third time for me going to Hampden, it will be very different because of the circumstances. It’s going to be a totally different game again and it’s going to be a derby in the cup semi. so there’s nothing better than that really.”
Current state and his ‘big moment’
Hearts fans can take comfort from the fact that Haring feels back to near peak condition. His journey has been arduous, exacerbated by the club’s