Jamie Walker is doubtful for tomorrow night’s clash with Inverness Caledonian Thistle as Hearts bid to reignite their flickering hopes of finishing second in the Premiership.
The on-song attacker was forced off in the second half of his team’s 3-1 defeat at Celtic Park after suffering a dead leg.
Walker had put Hearts into a fifth-minute lead with a brilliant strike from the edge of the box on his 100th league appearance for his boyhood club but could be seen limping around the corridors of Parkhead after the match.
It remains to be seen if the pain from his knock subsides enough in order to allow him to participate in the Highlands.
“Hopefully I’ll be fit but we’ll just have to wait and see,” said the 22-year-old.
Midfielder Don Cowie sat out the match on Saturday with the calf injury that forced him off against St Johnstone a fortnight previously and has a chance of returning for the clash with his former team tomorrow. However, Hearts face the possibility of going to the Caledonian Stadium without at least two of the players who helped their team poduce an impressive performance in the defeat by Celtic as Juwon Oshaniwa is suspended after being contentiously sent off for two bookable offences. The first came after an aerial challenge with Tom Rogic which sparked a melee between several players and the second came in stoppage time after Oshaniwa appeared to win the ball in a challenge on Nir Bitton.
Head coach Robbie Neilson is exasperated that the Nigerian, who hadn’t featured in Hearts’ previous matches after struggling for form through the winter, will be denied the chance to build on an encouraging display at Parkhead.
“Cowie should hopefully be back but I’m disappointed we won’t have Oshaniwa now after Saturday’s performance because I thought he did well,” he said. “I thought he performed admirably. He defended well and got forward well. He gave us good pace and energy and I was really pleased with him.
“I feel he was hard done by with the red card. When you come to Parkhead you have to be very careful not to get a man sent off because it’s easy for referees to send players off there. In my opinion, the first one was just two players challenging for the ball. I think he only got booked because of the furore after it. The second one he made a tackle and won the ball but the referee deemed it a yellow card.”
Neilson was irked that Celtic captain Scott Brown, who was later booked, avoided an early caution for a two-footed tackle on Juanma. “We had Celtic players making two-footed challenges and scissors-kick challenges but that’s the nature of coming to Parkhead,” said the head coach.
Hearts’ second defeat in succession, allied to Aberdeen’s victory over Hamilton yesterday, left them 12 points behind the Dons, but Neilson is refusing to throw in the towel in the battle for second place. “We’ve got a game in hand on Aberdeen and we’ve still got to play them twice,” he said. “We’re still in the mix but we’ll have to try and win at Inverness and then beat Aberdeen on Friday.”
Hearts will have to contend without Igor Rossi in their first game after the split. The Brazilian picked up his sixth league booking of the season at Celtic Park, triggering an automatic one-match suspension.
Meanwhile, Jon Daly’s development team are in action away to Dundee today. The match will be played at Links Park, Montrose, with a 2pm kick-off.