BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
SAM NICHOLSON will miss Hearts’ next two matches after the Tynecastle club decided against appealing the winger’s red card for spitting towards an official.
The Gorgie outfit had until 3 p.m. on Thursday to inform the Scottish Football Association of their intention to contest the dismissal but it is understood they declined to do so, meaning the decision will definitely stand.
The 22-year-old was given his marching orders by referee Nick Walsh during Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat against St Johnstone, with footage showing Nicholson taking several steps back from the assistant referee, Stephen Mitchell, before spitting in his direction.
While the Mitchell was not struck, the former Scotland under-21 starlet was shown a red card for the act.
It is understood Walsh’s official match report cited the player for a breach of rule A3, which relates to “spitting at an opponent or any other person” and carries an automatic two-game ban which will come into effect immediately.
Nicholson had only been on the field for 16 minutes prior to the indiscretion, which occurred 83 minutes into the clash at McDiarmid Park.
Hearts head coach Ian Cathro gave his public backing to Nicholson immediately after the full-time whistle, stating: “My understanding from Sam and the players around the situation is there is no way of being able to read that as an aggressive thing.
“Sam says he just spat – not at the assistant referee. Players do that in a game of football, we’ve all seen that before.”
Nicholson is also thought to be adamant he spat at the touchline, rather than Mr Mitchell.
However, after poring over video of the incident, Hearts chiefs decided against pursuing an appeal. It remains to be seen whether any internal action will be taken against Nicholson for the act of dissent.
The midfielder’s absence is yet another blow for the men in maroon, who have lost six of their last seven matches ahead of Saturday’s Premiership encounter against Dundee