Hearts confirm the nature of Zander Clark's injury during tough talk after defeat at Kilmarnock
The Edinburgh club will assess the 30-year-old at the start of the week and hope the problem is nothing serious. He appeared to tweak a hamstring late in the first half before failing to punch a cross which led to Kilmarnock’s second goal.
“It’s his hamstring but to be honest it’s too early to say. The hope is it’s just a nerve,” confirmed the Hearts manager Robbie Neilson. “We won’t know until a couple of days’ time. The medical staff went on and thought it was just mild and that he might be able to get through it. Obviously, it wasn’t.”
Lawrence Shankland gave Hearts an early lead but Danny Armstrong’s penalty and Christian Doidge’s strike secured three vital points for Kilmarnock. Neilson admitted players need to take responsibility for their individual battles and said management and staff are also culpable after a fifth defeat in six games.
“We can talk about tactics and doing this or that, but it’s player against player,” said Neilson. “If we look individually and say, ‘Did we play better, outmuscle or outfight the player we were playing against?’ They would probably say ‘no’. That shouldn't happen at Hearts. We need to make sure we’re ready for it next week because it will be the same. A very difficult game against St Mirren, similar style of football, two big and aggressive strikers, and we have to deal with it.
“It's about everyone looking at themselves and saying: ‘Am I doing enough?’ Whether it be a player, a sub, the staff, the manager, coaches, whatever. We’ve all got to do better. This club is about winning football matches. We’ve been through adversity before here. It’s part of Hearts – demotion, relegation, administration. We have these difficult periods and we’re having a difficult period just now. Four games on the bounce and it’s been tough. The only way to get through it is to stick together and fight together.”
The result, combined with Aberdeen’s win over St Johnstone, reduced Hearts’ lead in third place in the Premiership to just one point. Neilson won’t look to reset, instead he wants improvement.
“I hate all this reset talk,” he said. “For me, it’s about being at it every day in training. Look in the mirror and say: ‘Did I do enough today?’ I don’t think we did enough today. Next week, we need to make decisions and say: ‘We did enough.’ We had a gap. Prior to the [World Cup] break, there wasn’t a gap, then there was, now it’s come right down. It’s up to us to get back winning and fight through this. Football is about basics and doing them properly. After the initial 20 minutes today, we didn’t do the basics well. We didn’t link passes, we didn’t go forward or have that aggression to go forward.”
Despite a red card for captain Rory McKenzie on the hour mark, Kilmarnock saw the game out and earned praise from manager Derek McInnes. “It reinforces how strong a performance it was to do it with ten men,” he said.
“It was heroic at times. I thought the effort was brilliant and the connection with the support was there and we are going to need that. It was a very good day's work for us. All the subs played their part. We restricted a very strong Hearts team littered with top players to very little.”