Hearts reveal plan of attack without Liam Boyce
Armand Gnanduillet is poised to start in attack for Hearts at St Johnstone if top goalscorer Liam Boyce is declared unfit.
The French striker is preparing to deputise after Boyce was substituted with a calf injury in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Dundee. The Northern Irishman is still being assessed but is rated no more than 50/50 to take part at McDiarmid Park on Wednesday evening.
Gnanduillet is the obvious replacement as the only other centre-forward in Hearts’ first-team squad. Liverpool loanee Ben Woodburn is capable of playing centrally but Robbie Neilson, the Tynecastle manager, told the Evening News he will give Gnanduillet a chance if Boyce is sidelined.
“As soon as Liam felt the calf tighten we took him off, so we just need to wait and see,” said Neilson. “He is a big player for us but Armand is there to come in. We will give him his opportunity if Liam doesn’t make it.”
Boyce is the Premiership’s joint-top goalscorer and boasts ten goals from 15 games in all competitions for Hearts this season. Neilson is keen for everyone to step up to the mark in Perth, where the Edinburgh club haven’t won a league match in 11 years.
“Going up to St Johnstone, first and foremost, it’s a place where we haven’t won a lot. Our record isn’t great. That’s something we will need to speak about with the players,” admitted Neilson.
“We know the type of game it’s going to be and the atmosphere there will be. It’s night and day compared to Tynecastle. We have to go up there and perform.”
Away form has improved notably under Neilson despite Hearts being a newly-promoted side in the Premiership. They have won at St Mirren and Dundee United whilst drawing at Ross County and Rangers so far this term.
“That’s something we spoke about at the start of the season. If you want to be up at the top end of the league, you need to have a good away record and you need to win your home games. This is one we need to try and win,” added the manager.
“I’d have taken this situation when we got promoted. We are undefeated ten games into the season, now we need to keep the momentum going forward in a tough game on Wednesday night. St Johnstone are well organised, aggressive and have good energy.”
Hearts were left frustrated by Saturday’s result as John Souttar’s first-half goal was cancelled out by Jason Cummings’ late equaliser.
“I can’t really fault the players. I thought we played really well,” said Neilson. “We got into good areas, we moved the ball brilliantly across the back and through Dundee. Sometimes it’s just that final moment. It can be difficult at times to break down a team sitting so deep.
“Their centre-backs don’t move, their full-backs are narrow. It’s up to us to try and open them up. We did it once but we just couldn't get that second one. When you are 1-0 up you are always susceptible to something and we lost a goal from a long throw.”