Three Hearts players could return for Friday's St Mirren match
Three Hearts players could return to action on Friday when St Mirren visit Tynecastle Park for the second installment of a double header.
The two clubs drew 1-1 in Paisley on Saturday but Stephen Kingsley and Andy Halliday missed the match through concussion-related issues, whilst Lewis Neilson was ill. Management are hopeful that all three can prove their fitness in time for Friday evening.
Halliday was substituted with a head knock against Hibs last Monday, while Kingsley suffered concussion against Dundee United on Christmas Eve. His planned return at the weekend was scuppered by a setback.
“Andy missed the game by a day because the derby was on Monday. He had to follow the six days’ protocol,” explained Robbie Neilson, the Hearts manager. “Stephen had a wee setback last week but has been back running in the last couple of days. Hopefully he can get through everything and should be available along with Andy.
“They are big players for us. You saw on Saturday that we missed Andy in the first half. We put Alan [Forrest] out there at left wing-back and it was a wee bit imbalanced. I thought moving Alan to the right side for the second half made a massive difference for us because that allowed Alex Cochrane to push out to left wing-back. Getting Andy back gives us more balance.”
Lewis Neilson hasn’t featured competitively for Hearts since Sunday, November 6, against Motherwell. He will hope to force his way back into the squad for Friday night. “Lewis has just been ill so we will need to wait and see how he is this week,” added the manager.
Hearts were ordered to play further forward and deliver more crosses into the penalty area during Saturday’s second half. Neilson was unhappy with certain players’ positioning during the first 45 minutes and addressed the matter during the interval.
“St Mirren scored early from a deflected free-kick and that gave them a lift,” he said. “They started pressing and the game became really scrappy. We spoke before the game about it because we knew that’s what they wanted to do. Our job was to try to calm the game down. I felt we took that too much to heart, really, and we were passing for the sake of passing.
“We got into areas out wide where we could deliver into the box, and then the ball ends up back at Zander [Clark]. There comes a point when you just need to deliver the cross. Put it in and put people under pressure. You saw from Robert Snodgrass’ goal that, when you get the ball wide and put it in the box, things can happen. We just need to keep learning from those things.”
The St Mirren defender Marcus Fraser was sent off for a stoppage-time stamp on Hearts substitute Jorge Grant. “I’m pretty sure it’s a red card, although the boy doesn’t mean it,” said Neilson on the incident. “He tried to jump over his team-mate and he lands on top Jorge’s knee. At the end of the day, it’s a red card. Jorge is fine, he just got a cut on his knee.”