Hearts manager Craig Levein admits striker Steven Naismith is facing up to another three weeks on the sidelines with a persistent hamstring injury.
Levein’s joy at beating Hibs on Sunday to give himself some breathing space from angry supporters has been tempered by the news of another set-back for the Scotland internationalist.
Naismith had been set to return for the crucial derby victory at their city rivals but was omitted from the squad.
After only managing 45 minutes in the goal-less home draw with Ross County at week later, Naismith also came on for the final nine minutes in the 3-2 stalemate with Hamilton at the end of last month.
And Levein admits the former Rangers, Everton and Norwich City marksman, who underwent two knee operations last season, has still not full recovered from the injury.
Levein said: “Naisy, we’re scaling back a little bit. He got a bit of a reaction the other day so it will be two or three weeks, something like that, before he is back in the football.”
While Levein was able to welcome back goalkeeper Joel Pereira and right-back Michael Smith for the Easter Road clash, the Gorgie outfit still went into the game without Naismith, John Souttar, Peter Haring, Jamie Walker, Conor Washington, Craig Wighton and Ben Garuccio.
Despite Northern Ireland striker Washington being ruled out for up to three months after sustaining a hamstring injury in the September 14 defeat to Motherwell, Levein insists he is beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.
He said: “We got Joel and Michael back in the team on Sunday.
“Peter Haring was at the game and he is feeling good and he’ll not be long before he’s back in the team; Jamie Walker is improving, Ben Garuccio is improving.
“John Souttar, of course, is another one we’re missing.
“Once we start to see those players returning to the team, it creates competition and will hopefully make us better as well.”
Levein, meanwhile, insists Sunday’s victory at Hibs can help his players deal with the pressure of performing in front of an expectant home crowd.
Hearts host Aberdeen in tomorrow’s Betfred Cup quarter-final clash, having failed to win at Tynecastle in their last seven league outings.
Supporters have not been shy in making their feelings clear during games and Levein has admitted previously that the players have struggled to cope with the demands.
He said: “It’s a different game, playing against one of our main rivals is a different game from playing at home against a team we’re expected to beat.
“In previous games the expectations are of being favourites and having a lot of the ball, and having to be creative.
“Sometimes when you’re not feeling the most creative your head is a bit clouded and it’s difficult to be creative.
“Our confidence will improve after Sunday, it won’t be long before we can go out at Tynecastle and do all the things that we need to do to keep our great record there.
“This will help us but Wednesday is going to be a really tough match.
“We’ve got to take this performance in against Aberdeen.
“To go to Easter Road and play the way we did gives me great hope for the season going forward.”