Jamie Walker faces fight for first-team Hearts spot
Jamie Walker faces a fight to reclaim a starting place at Hearts after missing the last two matches through suspension.
He is available again for Saturday’s trip to Partick Thistle, but may have to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench after Hearts’ resounding 5-1 win over Inverness last week.
Head coach Robbie Neilson will name Walker in his squad again after the 23-year-old winger served a two-match ban for diving against Celtic. Although generally regarded as a key player at Tynecastle, Walker is not guaranteed a starting slot this weekend.
Two of the three attacking midfielders who featured against Inverness – Don Cowie and Sam Nicholson – scored twice. The other, Arnaud Djoum, played a typically influential role. Neilson could keep faith with all of the above at Firhill.
“Walker is going to have to fight for his place this week and try to get back into the team. After a game like Saturday, the guys who played really staked their claim for the next match,” said Neilson.
Nicholson’s confidence soared after etching his name on the scoresheet for the first time in six months. His previous goal for Hearts came back in February in a 2-2 Scottish Cup draw against Hibs.
Neilson hopes to see the 21-year-old build on his performance over the coming weeks, but is also mindful not to push him too hard. “Scoring the two goals does a lot for his confidence,” explained Neilson.
“Sam was fantastic last year but he fatigued a little bit towards the end of the season because he’s just a young boy. We just have to make sure we don’t overwork him. When he comes into these games, we want him on top form because, when he is, he’s a handful.”