Hearts have injury concerns ahead of tomorrow’s league match with Ross County as head coach Ian Cathro waits for news on four senior players.
Jamie Walker, Aaron Hughes, Don Cowie and Bjorn Johnsen are all rated touch-and-go for the game at Tynecastle.
Walker was taken off against Partick Thistle on Saturday suffering blurred vision. Hughes pulled out 45 minutes before kick-off with a calf problem, whilst Cowie and Johnsen were precluded by rib and hamstring injuries respectively.
The quartet will be given until the last minute to prove their fitness before Cathro decides on his team. Striker Esmael Goncalves is suspended following his red card against Partick last weekend.
“This is one of the reasons we needed to add players and build a more balanced squad,” Cathro told the Evening News.
“Defence is the one area where we don’t have the balance we’d like. It brings challenges and change and we need to deal with making the right decision.
“Don is pretty much back in full training so we’ll assess him ahead of tomorrow. We’re still looking at Jamie to see how he is. He had contact and a bit of blurred vision.
“We need to be careful over the next 24 hours in case it was a concussion of sorts. We’re unsure if it was. You need to do the sensible thing and look after the players – that’s why he was taken off. Naturally, these guys have that in-built determination to keep going but, if there’s any risk, then we can’t take it.
“There are slight issues with Aaron and Bjorn. They are a possibility for tomorrow. We just need to make the right decisions regarding where they are.”
Left-back Lennard Sowah deputised for Hughes in central defence against Partick, while centre-back Krystian Nowak was deployed in midfield.
“Lennard was probably the most ready player to fulfil that role,” explained Cathro.
“We had Krystian playing in midfield and we had our reasons for that. Lennard has played in that position before. Tomorrow is a different game and we’ll look at the whole picture differently, so it could be different.”
Midfielder Prince Buaben is close to a return after a groin problem.
“Prince is no longer injured – it’s just about his conditioning. He’s working hard and it close to being an option for us,” added Cathro.
Tynecastle’s pitch has been relaid over the last ten days and is now ready for use after a six-figure overhaul. Weather permitting, Hearts will train on it for the first time today and their players are eager to get on to the new surface.
“It will be a massive help to us. The club have made a tremendous effort and investment to deal with the situation quickly. Everybody involved in getting it ready has been a big positive,” said Cathro.
“The players are definitely looking forward to it. It will be different to how they remember the pitch. It’s our place, it’s our home, we will be the people who feel comfortable there.”
Despite many pitches looking worse for wear at this stage of the season, Cathro is determined not to change his coaching philosophy. He insisted he will continue to demand a technical, passing style from Hearts.
“I haven’t changed my mind. I wasn’t lying before. If there are adjustments it’s in dealing with that type of [more direct] play, not playing like that.
“It’s a game of decision-making, trying to make the big decisions. Every person will have their own thoughts on the best way to win, because that’s the object of the game – they’re motivated because they believe that’s the best way to win.
“I don’t believe that’s the best way. So I couldn’t do that. That would be me changing myself – and that would be unnatural. That would suggest that I’m not ready to be in the position to make these decisions.
“There has to always be a blend and you have to be flexible. You play the game you are in. For sure, everyone and every person will have their preferences, but what we have to do is how I see things. There are parts which have to be respected, adjusted to and dealt with.
“There is a high percentage of games which is direct ball and second ball, so on and so on. We need to be more resistant to those things, whilst making the right decisions in games.”