Hearts reveal the injury expectations for Stephen Humphrys, Lawrence Shankland and Robert Snodgrass

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Three injured Hearts players are close to returning in time for Saturday’s Premiership match against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.

Forwards Lawrence Shankland and Stephen Humphrys, plus midfielder Robert Snodgrass, were not risked against Celtic in the weekend Scottish Cup quarter-final at Tynecastle Park. However, their respective issues are not regarded as overly serious by the Edinburgh club.

Shankland and Snodgrass have been nursing minor complaints for the last two weeks, while Humphrys has missed the last three games with a knee problem. Manager Robbie Neilson is hopeful that all three will be available for the forthcoming trip north.

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“It's the same as last week, really. I expect them back for Saturday but I said that last week as well,” he told the Evening News. “They were touch-and-go against Celtic. I'd be disappointed if they aren't available for this weekend, put it that way.”

Hearts forwards Lawrence Shankland and Stephen Humphrys.Hearts forwards Lawrence Shankland and Stephen Humphrys.
Hearts forwards Lawrence Shankland and Stephen Humphrys.

Hearts missed the ability of Shankland and Snodgrass to link play as Celtic progressed to the semi-finals with a comfortable 3-0 win. “You see in the game that sometimes you just need somebody to link the play, settle it down and get some control. I felt we didn't really do that on Saturday,” admitted Neilson. “The two players in our team who do that are Shanks and Snoddy. They are the ones with massive experience, international players who can do that sort of thing.”

They were two of eight regular starters Hearts were without through injury, but Neilson refused to use that as an excuse. “I don't think it had an impact. I think it was more losing an early goal,” he said. “You need the fans behind you with that intensity at Tynecastle and then you lose a goal after two minutes.

“The fans were outstanding, the Gorgie Ultras made a real noise and helped give us that intensity, which allowed us to get back in and get a foothold in the game. Credit to the players and fans that we managed to do that.

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"Then we lose a goal right before half-time. We should see it out and get to half-time at 1-0 but Celtic get a throw-in, we don't get set up quickly enough, we allow Kyogo to make that near-post run that he makes 99 times out of 100 and he gets an easy goal. That was a huge disappointment.

"We spoke before the game about getting into that situation where you are man-for-man at the back, but we didn't make the contact you need to make. Especially at Tynecastle in the first two minutes of the game, you need to be aggressive.”

Hearts’ options were restricted because of their extensive injury list, with Neilson also pointing to the effort given last midweek against the same opponents in Glasgow.

“I think we used so much energy on Wednesday night against Celtic with that aggressive press and getting after the ball on a huge surface. We found it difficult to bring that intensity back again,” he said.

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“The plan was to change a number of players but with the injury issues we didn't have the opportunity to do that. We asked a lot of the guys to go again and I thought they gave us everything. We just didn't have that freshness and explosiveness.”