Hearts will be without Kevin McHattie for six weeks after head coach Robbie Neilson confirmed that the defender suffered a tear of his knee medial ligaments during Saturday’s top-of-the-table victory over Rangers.
The left-back had to be stretchered off in the second half of the 2-0 win after being caught by a robust Kenny Miller challenge that earned the Rangers striker a yellow card.
Despite scans revealing that he will not be able to select the 21-year-old until the new year, Neilson admits the prognosis could have been worse after initially fearing McHattie was facing up to three months on the sidelines.
Neilson said: “We knew it was quite a bad one. No surgery is required, though, with rest being needed.
“He will be in a brace to begin with and will be missing for six weeks.”
And Neilson is adamant that his side’s worsening injury woes will not derail their season.
The Championship leaders had gone into the clash without captain Danny Wilson and leading scorer Osman Sow due to persistent hamstring and thigh problems respectively.
Striker Dale Carrick is also still recovering from a hamstring problem.
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But Neilson, whose side host Celtic in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup this weekend, insists he has the personnel to withstand the injury setbacks.
Neilson said: “We’ve got a big squad and when Kevin came off, Adam Eckersley came in.
“Adam was unlucky that he picked up a knock a few weeks ago.
“We’ve definitely got options across the whole pitch so I don’t have any issues if somebody is out that it is going to cause us problems, because we’ve got guys that can come in.”
Neilson will be forced into a reshuffle for their next league outing against Queen of the South on 6 December, with midfielder and vice-captain Morgaro Gomis suspended for that clash.
But former Hearts defender Neilson admits Saturday’s man-of-the-match performance from Miguel Pallardo has given him food for thought.
The Spaniard, who signed in the summer from La Liga outfit Levante, made his second successive start for Hearts alongside Gomis after Prince Buaben dropped to the bench.
Neilson added: “I was delighted for Miguel, he’s a great guy.
“He’s come over from Spain and didn’t really speak any English. We’ve tried to settle him in and tried to help him.
“He’s taken to the group and he’s a great character. Last season he was playing in La Liga, the top level in Spain.
“He’s come here and had to sit out a bit until he got his fitness, and he’s waited for his opportunity in the team.
“He’s managed to come in and he’s another addition that we can use this season. Miguel does a lot of work that people don’t see, he does a lot of covering and makes interceptions and passes.”
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