Robbie Neilson today laid down a challenge to Hearts goalkeeper Scott Gallacher and told him to seize his opportunity in the first team.
Neilson stressed he has full faith in the 25-year-old, who will start against Hibs on Sunday in place of the club’s injured first-choice keeper, Neil Alexander.
Gallacher lacks experience at the top level but Neilson said he is unperturbed about playing him in the Edinburgh derby. In eight years at Rangers, Gallacher managed only five first-team appearances before joining Hearts on a two-year contract last month. He gets his chance earlier than expected after Alexander suffered a fractured cheekbone at Ibrox last weekend.
Neilson, the Hearts head coach, today outlined the opportunity that is open to Gallacher over the next few weeks. “It’s going to be a big chance for him. It’s a good opportunity for Scott to come in and stake his claim,” he told the Evening News.
“We brought him in here to compete with Neil and he’s got his opportunity now. I thought he did well when he came on against Rangers and it’s a very big game for him to go into this Sunday as well.
“We have no issues at all putting him in. He’s been great since he’s come to Hearts. I don’t have any concerns about lack of experience. He’s been at Rangers and been at a big club. I don’t have any issues with his temperament either. I’m sure he’ll be fine. Jack Hamilton will come back from his loan at Stenhousemuir as well to give us a wee bit of cover.”
Teenager Jordan McGhee should keep his starting place for Sunday’s match despite being substituted early against Rangers. Neilson explained that he withdrew the defender as a precaution to avoid any chance of him being sent off.
McGhee was booked after 21 minutes of Hearts’ 2-1 win at Ibrox last Sunday following a series of fouls. After watching him commit further offences, Neilson replaced him with Brad McKay ten minutes into the second half.
The 18-year-old was deputising for the injured Callum Paterson at right-back and is likely to continue in that position against Hibs this weekend. Neilson revealed that he only took McGhee off to prevent a possible red card from referee Craig Thomson.
“I’ve been in that situation myself before. You get booked and you give another foul away and you’re really on a knife edge because you can get sent off,” said Neilson. “Although we worked on ten versus 11 in the build-up to the game, I was hoping we wouldn’t need to deal with that. It was precautionary to take Jordan off.
“I thought he did really well in the game but we were worrying about him getting sent off. David Templeton comes inside and he jinks and you only need to make one late challenge.
“Brad came on and got booked within five seconds but Brad is experienced and you do get a bit more leeway when you come on.”