Zander Clark set for Hearts chance after Craig Gordon's injury

Zander Clark will make his first competitive Hearts start against former club St Johnstone on Wednesday following a season-ending injury to club captain Craig Gordon.
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Manager Robbie Neilson confirmed that 30-year-old Clark is in line to deputise for Gordon, who suffered a double leg break in Saturday’s 2-2 with Dundee United at Tannadice. He was replaced by Clark after being stretchered off to hospital and will not play again until next season.

Since joining Hearts on a three-year contract in September, Clark has waited patiently on the sidelines for an opportunity. Gordon’s consistent form and desire to play every match left the deputy kicking his heels. An opportunity now arises as a result of the No.1’s horror injury and Clark is in line for promotion ahead of the club’s other first-team goalkeeper, Ross Stewart.

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“It looks like he will be needed for the St Johnstone game,” said Neilson when asked about Clark. “The reason we brought him in is because with Craig, we hoped it would be for resting him but it looks like it's going to be a wee period now. It gives Zander an opportunity to come in. He's an international goalkeeper and I'm sure he'll look forward to it.”

Clark has been in Scotland squads but, similar to club level, has been unable to dislodge the ever-reliable Gordon. The captain’s name is added to a list of Hearts’ weekend injuries which also includes defenders Craig Halkett and Stephen Kingsley. They were forced off with knee and head knocks respectively.

“We've got [Lewis] Neilson, [Toby] Sibbick, [Kye] Rowles, [Alex] Cochrane, [Michael] Smith, [Andy] Halliday, Kio [Orestis Kiomourtzoglou] can play there. We've got plenty of cover, so it's fine,” stressed Neilson. “But it's frustrating. I keep speaking about that back three and trying to get it going, but we just can't quite get there. But we're third in the league with a game in hand, again having picked up a few injuries, so we've just got to keep battling away.

“Dundee United are a decent team but I thought when we actually passed the ball, we played well. But we got caught up in 100-miles-an-hour football, direct football, frustration with the referee because he's given mad decisions. The game just spirals out of control. I tried to say to them at half-time: ‘Focus on football, don't focus on decision-making or officials, just try to play our game.’ I thought when we did that, we played well.”

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St Johnstone’s 4-1 defeat at Celtic Park on Saturday was their first loss in seven matches. They are fifth in the Premiership and only one point behind Hearts in joint-third.

Zander Clark replaces Craig Gordon in goal for Hearts at Tannadice on Saturday.Zander Clark replaces Craig Gordon in goal for Hearts at Tannadice on Saturday.
Zander Clark replaces Craig Gordon in goal for Hearts at Tannadice on Saturday.

“They are doing very well at the moment,” said Neilson. “It will be a tough game, it always is up there. We've not won many games over the years up there but I think if we play football the way we can, if we do that for the majority of the game, then we should have enough – but we have to do that. It would be great to finish in third position at the end of the year and kick on.”