Robbie Neilson believes Hearts enter tomorrow’s Scottish Cup replay with Hibs better prepared after Saturday’s league meeting with Partick Thistle was postponed. A free weekend allowed several key players the chance to rest injuries ahead of the crucial trip to Easter Road.
Relentless rain and sleet left the Tynecastle pitch waterlogged when referee Bobby Madden arrived at the stadium on Saturday. He called the match off at 1.15pm, giving Hearts players the chance to take it easy and undergo a light training session.
Neilson had intended leaving important figures like Arnaud Djoum and Sam Nicholson out of the team to ensure they were ready to face Hibs. Now, with his full squad rested, he has plenty options. Only captain Alim Ozturk is out because of suspension.
“I was going to use Saturday to give some boys game time to get them prepared for the derby,” said the head coach today. “The game being off just means we have a bit better preparation. I expect all the boys to be fit and ready, apart from Ozturk, who is suspended. He’s fit just now and he’d have been playing on Saturday.
“It [the postponement] gives us a chance to get everyone ready. They would have been rested on Saturday, but now the whole squad has a had a rest. It would’ve been an ideal opportunity for some of the fringe players.”
Neilson revealed that teenager Dario Zanatta was in line for his first senior start against Thistle, but will now have to bide his time. The Canadian made an impact as a substitute in last week’s 3-0 win over Ross County, setting up the third goal for Abiola Dauda.
“He did really well when he came on at Ross County,” said Neilson. “Saturday would’ve been a chance to rest Nicholson and Walker and give Zanatta some game time. That’s just the way it goes, he’ll just need to wait for his chance now.
“We had named the team so he knew what was happening. He’s been doing great for us so he’ll continue to be part of the first-team plans and he’ll get more and more game time as the season goes on.”