Hearts explain plans for Craig Wighton after leaving striker out

Craig Wighton has been reassured of his short-term Hearts future after being omitted from Saturday’s win at Alloa.

By Barry Anderson
Thursday, 21st January 2021, 7:00 am
Striker Craig Wighton will still be involved for Hearts during the second half of the season.
Striker Craig Wighton will still be involved for Hearts during the second half of the season.

The striker played from the start in the previous fixture, a 3-1 loss against his former club Dundee, but failed to make the substitutes’ bench in Clackmannanshire last weekend.

He will remain part of the Edinburgh club’s plans during the second half of the season, although he is out of contract in the summer. His long-term prospects at Tynecastle Park are still unclear.

Manager Robbie Neilson explained to the Evening News the reason he left Wighton out of his 18-man squad against Alloa.

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“Very rarely have we had our full squad out this season. Alloa was the first time we had pretty much everyone available. The only ones out were Aidy White and John Souttar,” said Neilson.

“Even in the cup final last month, we only had Josh Ginnelly for 20-30 minutes. We didn't have Gary Mackay-Steven at that point. Once we have everyone fit, it's a very strong team.

“If you look at the bench on Saturday, it was very strong and we didn't even have Wighton in there. He's been one of our top goalscorers this season.

“I was picking the bench and I like to have three or four attacking options, plus one defender, one midfielder and a goalie.

“We had Ginnelly and Mackay-Steven as wide options, Steven Naismith can play No.10, and Boyce was the striker. We also had Peter Haring for midfield and Mihai Popescu as defensive cover.

“There just wasn't a place for Wighty. It was nothing to do with his performances. He is definitely still in the plans for the second half of the season. He has scored some important goals for us recently.”

Hearts still intend to sign another striker this month and have made a number of enquiries in the hope of strengthening their attack. Boyce and Wighton have competed for the centre-forward role since the campaign began.

Neilson also hopes to recruit another midfielder after allowing Olly Lee to join Gillingham on loan until the end of the season. Lee’s Hearts contract also expires this summer.

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