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Ħamrun, Hibs set for combative clash

The race to secure early survival via a berth in the Championship Pool resumes in earnest this evening when Ħamrun Spartans take on Hibernians at the Victor Tedesco Stadium.

While the fifth-placed Spartans are keen to reassert their top-six credentials after a dismal showing in last week’s 3-1 defeat to Floriana, Hibs must win this match if they are to revive their hopes.

Steve D’Amato, the Ħamrun coach, is hopeful that the Reds’ poor performance against the Greens will spark a bold response from his players.

“We didn’t deserve better because on the day we were very disappointing,” D’Amato said.

“Everyone in our camp expected better but this happens in football. The most important thing now is to bounce back with a strong display. We were coming from two consecutive defeats when we played Hibs in the first round but the players hit back and scored four goals in just 30 minutes.

“The league this season is very strange as teams have been taking points off each other.”

D’Amato has fitness concerns over a host of players. Defenders Roderick Fenech and Steve Bonnici will have a late fitness test after picking up minor injuries in last week’s match while Jonathan Holland is out with a calf problem.

Massimo Grima is also doubtful after being down with flu for most of the week while Scottish forward Dene Shields is still recovering from a knee operation.

To reach their objective tonight, Hibs must snap a negative sequence of 12 matches without a win as they have not tasted victory since their opening-day 3-1 defeat of Floriana on September 11. Last weekend, Hibs drew 2-2 with Marsaxlokk.

Coach Mark Miller said the remaining second round matches are crucial for his team.

“They’re all cup finals for us,” Miller said.

“Anything that you do is scrutinised but as long as you win and get the points, it’s fine. We’re trying everything to win points and give ourselves a chance.”

Jamal Dibi, who last played for Qatari club Umm Salal, is set to make his debut for Hibs today. Faced with a shortage of attacking players, Miller decided to sign Dibi on a two-game contract but the Dutch forward will be offered a longer deal if he makes the desired impact.

Jean Paul Farrugia, Jonathan Pearson and Adrian Pulis are doubtful as all were down with fever during the week while Warren Chircop and Tristan Caruana are sidelined with injuries.

First round result: Hibs vs Ħamrun 3-4.

Meanwhile, the Malta FA yesterday announced that the venues for the Premier League matches this weekend have been switched for security reasons.

Tomorrow’s fixtures, Qormi vs Sliema Wanderers and Marsaxlokk vs Birkirkara, have been moved to the Hibs Stadium while Sunday’s games, Vittoriosa vs Floriana and Tarxien vs Valletta, will now be played at the National Stadium.

Revised programme
Today (Tedesco Stadium): 7.30 p.m. Ħamrun Spartans vs Hibs.
Tomorrow (Hibs Stadium): 2 p.m. Qormi vs Sliema; 4 p.m. Marsaxlokk vs Birkirkara.
Sunday (National Stadium): 2 p.m. Vittoriosa vs Floriana; 4 p.m. Tarxien vs Valletta.

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