Sam Nicholson set to replace banned Walker in Hearts line-up

Sam Nicholson is likely to come back into the Hearts team at Pittodrie
Sam Nicholson is likely to come back into the Hearts team at Pittodrie
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Hearts will have to do without Jamie Walker for tomorrow’s Premiership showdown with Aberdeen at Pittodrie after the influential attacker’s two-match ban for simulation was upheld.

The 23-year-old was served with a notice of complaint from the SFA’s compliance offer on Tuesday for “diving” to win a penalty under a challenge from Kieran Tierney in Sunday’s 2-1 defeat by Celtic.

Hearts rejected the initial offer of a two-match ban and chose to contest the charge, meaning Walker was able to play in Wednesday’s Betfred Cup match away to St Johnstone. The Riccarton academy graduate scored his side’s second goal from the penalty spot in their 3-2 defeat by Saints.

Walker attended yesterday’s hearing at Hampden in person, but he and his club were left “deeply disappointed” after the compliance officer’s referral was upheld, meaning he will miss tomorrow’s match in Aberdeen and next Saturday’s home game against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Supporters of the Gorgie club are particularly angered by the ruling because former Celtic striker John Guidetti avoided retrospective punishment despite appearing to win a penalty by diving in a Scottish Cup match between the teams in December 2014. Head coach Robbie Neilson cited this incident when discussing Walker’s case with the press earlier in the week.

The attacker’s absence tomorrow is likely to mean a return to the starting line-up for Sam Nicholson. Faycal Rherras could also be back in the side after sitting out the Saints defeat with a minor thigh problem, while Perry Kitchen has a chance of returning to the squad after a month out injured.

Hearts are hopeful that new striker Bjorn Johnsen will have his international clearance authorised by FIFA in time to feature tomorrow. The US-born Norwegian striker signed for the Tynecastle club three weeks ago but, despite training with his new team-mates in the intervening period, has been prevented from making his debut by a red-tape hold-up. Johnsen tweeted on Tuesday: “Getting fairly impatient with the FIFA clearance here. Ready to play!!!!”