Hearts have a potential right-back solution after the latest injury update on Michael Smith

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The Northern Irishman’s hamstring is healing at Riccarton but his return date remains unclear.

Interim Hearts manager Steven Naismith expects to be without defender Michael Smith again this weekend when his side travel to St Mirren. The Northern Irishman is still recovering from a hamstring injury sustained against Hibs at Easter Road last month.

Although Smith is back doing working outside at the club’s Riccarton training base, he is not likely to be ready for Saturday’s vital trip to Paisley. “Probably not. I don't think so,” said Naismith. “He is back on the grass but it's a hamstring, so progress can be slightly slow. In my mind at the moment, I don't think I will have him for this week.”

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That could mean another outing at right-back for the on-loan Bournemouth defender James Hill. He is predominantly a central defender but filled in on the right against Celtic on Sunday, leaving the Australian right-back Nathaniel Atkinson as an unused substitute.

“Natty had an illness earlier in the week but Hilly is one of the players who is desperate to learn,” explained Naismith. “I had a conversation with him, asking: 'Can you play right-back?' He said he hadn't played right-back a lot but he said he could do it.

“We worked a lot last week with him being in the right-back slot. He is a very good one-versus-one defender, as you saw against Celtic. I just thought it suited him overall. Like all of these things, you have an instinctive decision to make and that's what I chose. I think it was the right one, if I'm honest.”