Paulo Sergio says Hearts tired in attack

Hearts manager Paulo Sergio
Hearts manager Paulo Sergio
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Hearts boss Paulo Sergio has said opposition teams will benefit from his team’s lack of “freshness” as he attempts to rotate his squad during a busy schedule of matches.

The Portuguese coach, whose side will tomorrow travel to St Johnstone for a Scottish Cup replay, is concerned by his lack of options in attack, with Stephen Elliott the club’s only proven striker at SPL level.

With Calum Elliot having left prior to the January transfer window, Hearts last month offloaded John Sutton and Ryan Stevenson. The Jambos’ attacking options are further depleted by the long-term absence of Kevin Kyle due to injury, meaning Gary Glen and Gordon Smith are the only available deputies in a forward role.

Tomorrow’s cup replay in Perth will be Hearts’ fourth match in nine days, and Sergio hopes his squad’s perceived lack of strength in depth does not help the Perth side in the way in which he thinks Kilmarnock were boosted in Saturday’s 1-1 draw.

“We played on Wednesday and, at this moment, we don’t have a lot of solutions in some positions, so I feel there is a lack of freshness,” said Sergio. “With that lack of freshness that we have up front at the moment, it helped Kilmarnock.

“These guys played [twice in a] week and again on Saturday. Last Sunday [against St Johnstone at home] we didn’t play Rudi Skacel, and against Kilmarnock we didn’t play Scotty Robinson, so we have to try to stay as fresh as we can for tomorrow.”

Sergio’s limited array of attacking talent has been bolstered by the recent return from injury of Suso Santana. The winger, yet to start a match this season, scored a late equaliser at Kilmarnock to salvage a point for Hearts, and Sergio has praised his influence.

He said: “Suso comes back from a very complicated injury so we have to be careful with him. Step by step, because he’s a hard worker, he’s in better shape every day and I think he’s a player that can help us.”

Sergio said his team deserved more than just a point from Saturday’s game at Rugby Park, claiming his side had the better of the game against Kilmarnock.

He said: “What we deserved – that’s what I’m worried about. It’s the victory, the three points. I just saw one team on the pitch. I’m very proud of the players. The team played with a lot of personality.”