Kilmarnock V Hibernian at Rugby Park : Match Preview

04 May 2013 03:01
Kilmarnock V Hibernian - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Shiels 'not focusing on Griffiths'

Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels has urged his players to focus on their own strengths, rather than Hibernian star man Leigh Griffiths, when the two sides meet in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.

Griffiths has been a hugely influential player for the Edinburgh club this season and his efforts have earned him nominations for both player and young player of the year at Sunday's PFA Scotland awards.

Killie know first-hand just how dangerous the striker can be after he bagged a hat-trick the last time the sides met when Hibs came out on top in a William Hill Scottish Cup tie.

Shiels said: "He's done well against us and he has done well against everybody.

"He is certainly right up there for player of the year.

"But we have to focus on how we play and that's the most important thing."

The Rugby Park side are boosted by the return of Rory McKenzie after he recovered from a sickness bug but Shiels has had a number of injury problems to contend with in the latter part of the campaign.

However, he refused to make excuses, adding: "Most clubs have four or five missing and we just have to try to get a performance and get a result on Sunday."

Shiels has already recruited Inverness goalkeeper Antonio Reguero on a pre-contract agreement ahead of next season and is keen to bolster his squad further for the new campaign.

He said: "I'm looking at a little bit more experience in certain areas of the team, which will help us. That's where I'm at just now."

Kilmarnock are boosted by the return of Rory McKenzie (illness). Rory McKeown, Manuel Pascali and James Dayton are still on the sidelines.

Hibernian boss Pat Fenlon has not given up hope of keeping Griffiths at Easter Road next season.

The on-loan Wolves attacker was told this week that Molinuex boss Dean Saunders has decided to take up a one-year option on his contract and will recall the player once the Scottish season is over.

But Fenlon admits he has not yet admitted defeat in his bid to keep the life-long Hibs fan in Edinburgh.

He told Press Association Sport: "We have always said we would love to keep Leigh here but it is outside of our control. We are being realistic and we're actively looking elsewhere to see if we can get his type of player in.

"It would be difficult for us to make an offer for Leigh. We're not in a position to throw money at anyone. But while he is here you always have that hope he might be here a little longer and we'll continue to have that hope."

Griffiths moved to Wolves from Dundee in 2011 but has spent the last 18-months on loan in Leith after failing to secure a first-team slot with the npower Championship side.

He now has just three Clydesdale Bank Premier League games left before he potentially returns south - starting at Kilmarnock's Rugby Park home where he will hope to find the goals that will make him the first Hibs striker in 40 years to net 30 times in a single season.

He has already fired Hibs to the William Hill Scottish Cup final against Celtic on May 26 after back-to-back hat-tricks in the last eight against Killie and then in the semi-final with Falkirk.

Now Fenlon says the Hibees' faithful should drink up his final four games in green.

"I think the fans should be savouring Leigh's performances either way," he said. "He's scored some cracking goals in the semi-final and then against St Mirren last weekend.

"It was a fantastic strike against St Mirren and he got a tap-in at the back post and I suppose that shows he can score all kinds of goals.

"How do we replace him? Well we go about trying to keep him first. If he goes, we have a job on our hands trying to get someone to come in and play instead of him.

"That's part of football and we need to make sure we go and find the next one. We've got some fantastic young players and it's important we nurture them through. But it will be a difficult task replacing him. There's no point saying anything other than that."

Griffith's latest double against St Mirren last Saturday took his tally to seven in four games against the Buddies this season and 27 in total.

While he lags way behind Alan Gordon and Jimmy O'Rourke, who notched 42 and 34 respectively for the club during the 1972/73 season, Fenlon claims he's never worked with a better goalscorer.

"He's a better player than when he started here," the boss, who has no injury worries, declared. "His all-round game has improved. There's no doubt he's more settled now too."

Source: PA