Injuries and suspensions leave Hearts facing huge selection problems for Wednesday’s league trip to Ross County.
Captain Alim Ozturk is a major doubt, whilst Sam Nicholson, Arnaud Djoum and Miguel Pallardo all suffered knocks in yesterday’s 2-2 William Hill Scottish Cup draw with Hibs.
Head coach Robbie Neilson is also without the banned trio of Igor Rossi, Blazej Augustyn and Prince Buaben. He explained today that other players must now step up to the mark for a vital Ladbrokes Premiership match with so many ruled out.
“Djoum got a kick in a tackle at the start of the second half,” Neilson told the Evening News. “He tried to carry on but he couldn’t continue. Hopefully, it’s just a knock and he can be okay for Wednesday. Pallardo has tightened up in his calf muscles, Nicholson got a knock on his foot again. I’m hoping they’ll all be available for Ross County.
“We will need to see how Ozturk is. He’s got a problem with his tendon, although it’s not his hamstring. We’ll see how it settles down. He will be doubtful for Wednesday.
“We’ve got Rossi out, Augustyn out, Buaben out, all through suspension. That’s the reason we have a decent squad. We have good players ready to come in. By getting Rossi’s suspension out of the way on Wednesday, it means he’s available for the replay with Hibs.
“We’ll deal with the replay when it comes. First, we have a huge game on Wednesday night against an in-form team. We have a lot of suspensions and a lot of injuries. We have to put a team together and go up there to try and win.”
The Edinburgh clubs will meet again at Easter Road tomorrow week after Hibs came back from 2-0 down to preserve their Scottish Cup campaign.
Goals by Djoum and Nicholson put Hearts 2-0 ahead at half-time, but Jason Cummings and Paul Hanlon struck in a dramatic Hibs fightback in the final ten minutes. “The players know and understand that, when you get into such a position, you shouldn’t lose games,” said a disappointed Neilson.
“With fifteen minutes to go, we are 2-0 up and Hibs are out of the cup.
“They’ve nothing to lose and they can go gung-ho. We had a couple of counter-attacks and, if we’d scored, it would’ve killed the game.
“At the second goal, we don’t win the first header. It’s a great save from Neil Alexander, the ball falls to the boy and he sclaffs it in. That’s football.
“It’s the small margins sometimes which make the difference. We don’t want to be too negative about yesterday.
“The way the game turned out was disappointing but we have a replay at Easter Road which we’ll try to win.
“There are two big games before then, though, against Ross County and Partick Thistle . “That gives us a chance to get Rossi back, get some other boys over their injuries, get Jamie Walker more game time and Abiola Dauda more game time.
“We can go into the game at Easter Road in better condition.”