Jack Ross is relishing having Hibernian talisman Martin Boyle available for Wednesday’s cinch Premiership showdown with Rangers.
The 28-year-old scored a hat-trick to sink the Ibrox side in the Premier Sports Cup semi-final, but was absent for Saturday’s 2-1 win at St Johnstone after getting sent off against Ross County last Wednesday.
Boyle is now free of suspension for the visit of Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s team to Easter Road, and manager Ross is hoping his top scorer can add to the 14 goals he has already scored for his club this term.
He said: “It’s great to have Martin back. He’s one of the best attacking players in the league.
“His contribution in the semi-final was obviously huge so not having him on Saturday was a challenge for us but it was one we overcame. We’re certainly pleased to have him back.”
Since Ross took charge two years ago, Hibs had failed to beat Rangers in seven attempts before the recent 3-1 semi-final victory. The manager believes that Hampden triumph has given his team a psychological boost.
He said: “The semi-final win has given the players a tangible reward for their performances against Rangers in recent times. We all believed we had performed well, and I think the people watching the games felt that, but we hadn’t won any of them.
“You need that to turn, and we did that at Hampden, and what it’s done is give us that increased belief that we can repeat it. We know we need to perform just as well, if not better, and the big moments need to go our way.
“Overall it’s just given us that extra belief and confidence. I think it was already there going into matches against Rangers, but certainly that result has helped us.”
Ross believes his team will also take heart from ending a five-game losing streak in the league when they won at St Johnstone at the weekend.
He said: “Saturday was a game the players should take confidence from. Naturally, when you’re on a poor run, it can affect players but I didn’t feel as a group we were too badly affected.
“We retained faith and trust and got the rewards in terms of the result at the weekend. It’s nice to go into such a big game on the back of that much-needed win.”
Scotland striker Kevin Nisbet got back on the scoresheet in Perth after five games for Hibs without a goal, and Ross is hopeful that it sparks a return to prolific form.
He said: “Kevin was OK, there was nothing wrong with him previously. I think people can have a misconception about how people are feeling. He was frustrated because he wants to score goals but he retains belief in his own ability and he knows he has my trust in him.
“He enjoyed the feeling of scoring at the weekend but certainly for me, there’s never been a dip in his belief. I think he’ll believe now he can go on a consistent scoring run.”