Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson insists Jamie Walker showed why he deserved to be back in the team after watching the playmaker net a brace in the weekend victory over Hamilton.
After being forced to serve a two-match ban for diving following the controversial flash-point in the first game of the season against Celtic, Walker made his first start in a month in Saturday’s 3-1 win.
The 23-year-old came in for Scotland Under-21 internationalist Sam Nicholson and pressed his case to be included in next weekend’s trip to St Johnstone after heading in the equaliser before converting a penalty to put his side ahead.
He said: “Jame’s a top player. He’s struggled to get back into the team because Nicholson’s done so well, but I’m lucky I’ve got real quality.
“Jamie got a chance and he’s grasped it. He did really well, it was a great finish for the header.
“Just with the way things happened with the international week, with Sam going away we thought we’d give Jamie a chance.”
Nicholson, who played in both the recent Scotland Under-21 defeats to Macedonia and Ukraine, also made his mark after climbing off the bench.
The winger crossed for Walker to head in, won the penalty in challenge with Shuan Want and netted the third goal with a composed injury-time half-volley.
Neilson added: “Sam is a player that has real quality, he’d been away with the international team and we felt with the travelling he had done that we wanted to give him a little bit of a rest and try and be an impact for us in the last 30 minutes.
“I knew when the game opened up, as it did, that he’d be the one that would be able to get into the wide areas, and he did that.”