Robbie Neilson faces a ‘big decision’ over Hearts keepers

Neil Alexander. Jack Hamilton, below.
Neil Alexander. Jack Hamilton, below.
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Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson admits he faces a big decision over who will play in goal against Dumbarton this weekend.

With Neil Alexander back in training following a cheekbone injury, Neilson must choose between him and 20-year-old Jack Hamilton for the trip to the Bet Butler Stadium.

Hamilton kept a clean sheet on his Scotland Under-21 debut last night as Billy Stark’s side beat Luxembourg 3-0 in their final European Championship qualifier. He has also performed admirably for Hearts since first-choice Alexander and his deputy Scott Gallacher both suffered injuries early last month.

The youngster was handed a first-team debut in the Edinburgh derby win over Hibs and also kept goal in the 4-0 win over Raith Rovers, plus the 4-1 defeat of Falkirk. However, with 36-year-old Alexander fit again, Hamilton could find himself relegated to the substitutes’ bench when league business resumes on Saturday.

“I need to make a decision because, obviously, Jack has done well,” Neilson told the Evening News. “He’s played well and he’s developed a lot but Neil is the number one. I’ll need to sit and have a look at the situation and decide what we’re going to do. We’ll have a look at Neil this week. I know Jack is a good keeper and it was good for him to get into the team and get some games.

“I’ll just need to judge it over the course of the week, see how Neilly is and how his face is. We’ll look at his cheek and see how he’s feeling and then talk about it tomorrow or Thursday before a decision is made.”

Last week, Hamilton told the Evening News he was unsure whether he would retain his place.

“Neil is back training so whether I can keep my place or not, I’ll need to wait and see,” he said. “I knew the other keepers would be coming back. I’ve just tried to take each day as it comes and tried to impress the gaffer.

“I wanted to show I can play there if I’m called upon again.”

Gallacher remains sidelined with an ankle problem but Hearts medical staff are hopeful he will be fit enough to resume training before the end of the month.