Neilson confident Clark will relish chance to start for Hearts

The goalkeeper will step in after Craig Gordon's season was ended by injury.

Robbie Neilson confident Zander Clark will relish chance to start for Hearts SNS Group

Robbie Neilson expects Zander Clark to embrace his opportunity at Hearts as the goalkeeper prepares to step into the breach following Craig Gordon’s season-ending injury.

The 30-year-old Clark, who joined Hearts from St Johnstone in September, made his Jambos debut as a second-half substitute in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Dundee United after club captain Gordon was carried off with his leg in a brace.

Hearts announced on Monday that the 39-year-old Scotland number one had suffered a double leg break and, having undergone surgery, will play no further part this season.

That means Clark, who has also been part of the national team set-up, is poised to step in and he is set to make his first start against Saints on Wednesday.

“One of the reasons we brought Zander in was we hoped we might be resting Craig but it looks like he’s going to be out for a period now,” said Hearts boss Neilson.

“It gives Zander the opportunity to come in. He’s an international goalkeeper and I’m sure he’ll look forward to it.”

As well as Gordon, Hearts are set to be without centre-backs Craig Halkett and Stephen Kingsley for the trip to McDiarmid Park. Halkett went off early in the Tannadice draw with a knee problem, while Kingsley departed with a head injury.

Neilson is frustrated at being unable to keep his three first-choice centre-backs fit for any period of time this season, but is confident he has enough alternative options.

“We’ve got Lewis Neilson, Toby Sibbick, Kye Rowles, Alex Cochrane, Michael Smith and Andy Halliday, and (Orestis) Kiomourtzoglou can play there so we’ve got plenty cover,” he said.

“It’s fine. Yes, it’s frustrating that we can’t keep that back three but we’re third in the league with a game in hand having again picked up a few injuries, so we just need to keep battling away.”

Hearts have not won a league game away to St Johnstone for more than 12 years, but Neilson believes his team can rectify that statistic on Wednesday and end 2022 third in the cinch Premiership.

“St Johnstone are doing very well at the moment,” he said. “It will be a tough game, it always is up there. We’ve not won many games over the years up there.

“If we play football the way we can, and do it for the majority of the game, we should have enough. We have to do it for the majority of the game though. It would be nice to finish the year in third position, and then it allows us to kick on.”

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