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McCormack in frame for role at Tynecastle as Hogg waits


HIBERNIAN will learn this morning if Chris Hogg will be free to face Hearts tomorrow night, when referee Stevie O'Reilly decides whether his dismissal of the centre-back at the weekend should be referred to the SFA's review panel. With captain Rob Jones and Sol Bamba already suspended, Hibs are short of cover at the heart of their defence and would be severely stretched if they were to lose Hogg as well.
It is in O'Reilly's power to rule that his decision to show Hogg a straight red card for his tackle on Craig Conway of Dundee United was correct. On the other hand, if the match official decides it is worth another look, Hogg will be able to play on until the review panel meets and makes a ruling on the incident.

If Hogg is out, Hibs are likely to play Ian Murray and Steven Thicot as their central-defensive pairing, although another option would be to pick Darren McCormack. The 20-year-old has played at right-back recently, but is a natural centre-back.

The selection of McCormack for the league match at Tynecastle might be thought adventurous, or even foolhardy, given he was fined £1,000 just last week for an assault on Hearts striker Calum Elliot. But Hibs midfielder John Rankin, for one, believes that McCormack, who made a public apology to Elliot and was also disciplined by his club, would handle the responsibility.

"Put Darren and Calum Elliot together and we'll get a good battle on Thursday," Rankin joked yesterday before offering a more considered opinion. "Darren's a good professional. Maybe it's just one of those things – he got caught in a situation at the time and that's how he dealt with it.

"He looks back on it now as a mistake. I'm sure if Darren is picked on Thursday night he'll give the good performance we need to win a derby.

"Every young player goes through a stage where things happen and maybe you're led into a difficult situation and you just can't avoid that, if you get caught in the wrong company. I'm sure now Darren realises what he's done and will come through the other side of it a better person.

"I lived in Inverness when I played for Inverness and it was a goldfish bowl. Darren's living in Edinburgh and it's hard for him.

"Obviously he's got a lot of friends who went to school with him. If people want to spread rumours just because of who he is maybe jealousy kicks in.

"But that's part and parcel of being a young boy. We've all been there and come through it."

A place at centre-back is McCormack's best hope of starting in the derby, as right-back David van Zanten should be fit after picking up a head knock in the defeat by United. However, midfielder Denes Rosa and goalkeeper Grzegorz Szamotulski remain doubtful.

The fact that striker Colin Nish is suspended along with Jones and Bamba means that Hibs will be noticeably short of tall players for the derby, particularly if Hogg is ruled out too. The diminutive Rankin, who was speaking at an event to publicise Setanta's coverage of the derby, is well aware of how difficult it could be against Hearts, but he is confident there are ways of combating the home team's physical prowess. "It's going to be extremely tough if the four probably tallest players in the team are suspended," he continued. "It's time for the rest of us to stand up and be counted.

"On Saturday we conceded from a corner, which is very disappointing, but there are ways in which you can stop that other than just height. At the end of the day, the larger lads amongst us are going to have to take control. We always thought Dundee United were like the land of the giants, but the last time we played Hearts it was extremely difficult just because they were so big. And they're not only big, they're powerful as well. Robbie Neilson has got a long throw too, so we're going to have to clear our lines from higher up."

If Hibs play too high a defensive line, however, they would be susceptible to the speed of Hearts winger Andy Driver. It all appears to be a tactical quandary for Mixu Paatelainen – one that would ease considerably for the manager, however, if Hogg is freed to play.

Taken from the Scotsman

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