Hearts reveal when Josh Ginnelly and Michael Smith will return - plus injury update on Liverpool loanee Ben Woodburn

Josh Ginnelly and Michael Smith are close to returning from injury after missing Hearts’ weekend draw with Ross County.

By Barry Anderson
Monday, 20th September 2021, 7:00 am
Josh Ginnelly and Michael Smith will return soon for Hearts.
Josh Ginnelly and Michael Smith will return soon for Hearts.

The English winger was ordered to rest a minor ankle complaint, whilst the Northern Irish defender is still suffering muscle tightness. Both are expected to recover in time for this Saturday’s Premiership match against Livingston at Tynecastle Park.

“Michael and Gino should be back for this week,” the Hearts manager Robbie Neilson told the Evening News.

“Michael played against Hibs when he was 70 per cent fit and we need him 100 per cent fit. We thought if we take him out of the County game then he will be back 100 per cent for this week.

“Gino rolled his ankle in a bounce game and it’s been niggling away at him. He came on against Hibs and felt it so we decided to give him ten days' rest and he will be fine.”

A tight calf forced the on-loan Liverpool winger Ben Woodburn off after 65 minutes of Saturday’s 2-2 draw in Dingwall. Neilson said that decision was more precautionary.

"Ben’s calf was tightening up, which happened in the previous game. He hasn’t played a lot of football,” he explained. “You could leave him out there for another ten minutes, then his calf goes and he’s out for six weeks.

“We thought it would be best to take him off. Jamie Walker came on and I thought he was excellent for someone who hasn’t played for a while.”

Another replacement was the Australian Cameron Devlin, who made his Hearts debut by adding an energetic presence to midfield at an important time in the game.

“I was impressed with Cammy. I thought he did exactly what we were looking for,” said Neilson. “In possession, I thought they were all excellent. I couldn't really ask for any more. We spoke about what we wanted to do, we did it, got into good areas but didn’t have that final moment.

“We could potentially have been coming in at half-time 5-2 or 6-2 up with the chances we had, but we ended up 2-1 down. We created less in the second half but ended up getting the goal and a point.”

Explaining the decision to change from a 3-4-3 formation to a back four for the trip north, Neilson added: “We went with a 4-1-4-1 because we wanted to go all-out attack with five forwards, but that leaves space behind that group and at times we are a wee bit open.

"The two No.10s [Liam Boyce and Ben Woodburn] weren’t getting back in, which is maybe natural. We put Devlin on into the middle of midfield and it gave us more balance in the game. It’s the balance and the give-and-take. You want that attacking threat but you also need to cover yourself defensively.

“There is frustration because we want to win every single game. We’ve gone away from home against a team desperate for a point. With 20 minutes to go they flipped into a 5-4-1 formation to try and kill the game. That’s what we are going to get this season.

“We come into town with a big support, we are a team near the top of the league. Teams will kill the game and force us to open up a bit.”

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