Hearts’ Kevin McHattie and Sam Nicholson in injury set-backs

Kevin 'McHattie hobbles off after injuring his knee against Dumbarton

Kevin 'McHattie hobbles off after injuring his knee against Dumbarton

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Hearts will have to utilise the strength of their squad in their upcoming games, with Kevin McHattie and Sam Nicholson facing short spells on the sidelines.

As a result of injuries sustained in Saturday’s goalless draw at Dumbarton, left-back McHattie went off after only 13 minutes, while winger Nicholson, pictured, who completed the match, left the Bet Butler Stadium with his foot in a brace.

Hearts initially feared the worst with regard to both players, but scans undertaken on Sunday revealed that they have suffered only minor ligament damage and are unlikely to be missing for any significant period of time.

The pair are both struggling to make weekend’s Championship match at home to Cowdenbeath, with their knocks being assessed on an ongoing basis.

McHattie, who suffered a blow to the knee, is deemed to have a better chance of featuring in the League Cup tie at Celtic next Wednesday, while Nicholson’s foot remains in a brace as he recovers from a sprained ankle.

“It’s not too bad for either of them, so hopefully we’ll get them back soon,” said head coach Robbie Neilson. “I’d like to have them back training by the start of next week, if not before that. We’ll just need to assess them and see how they go.”

While disappointed by the prospect of losing the key duo, Neilson believes he has ready-made replacements in Adam Eckersley and Jamie Walker.

Left-back Eckersley played the bulk of Saturday’s game after coming on as a substitute for McHattie, but has yet to start a match for Hearts. Walker, having missed three games through suspension, has made only three substitute appearances in the league.

“Adam came in and did very well at the weekend and Jamie’s been waiting for his opportunity, working hard and doing really well,” said Neilson.

“It will give Jamie a wee boost if he can get in. He’s been great in the under-20s games and he was great when he came on against Dumbarton.

“He’s been patient, and that’s what all the boys need to be. This is the reason we’ve got a strong squad, so if we have any issues like this we can put people straight in.”