Hearts provide Michael Smith injury update - how he could be replaced

Hearts have confirmed they are assessing Michael Smith ahead of Saturday’s cinch Premiership clash with Ross County.

Friday, 17th September 2021, 3:04 pm
Updated Friday, 17th September 2021, 4:06 pm
Hearts wing-back Michael Smith could miss the Ross County clash. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

The 33-year-old was replaced by Taylor Moore in the 66th minute of the Edinburgh derby on Sunday with a knock which he picked up during the international break with Northern Ireland.

He had played every minute of the season up until that point.

It means Robbie Neilson could be without the club’s starting right wing-back for the trip to Dingwall as Hearts look to continue their unbeaten start to the league season.

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“We are assessing Mikey, he is back in, but off the pitch,” assistant Gordon Forrest said.

"We’ll see how he is on Friday and make that decision but he’s an important player for us and we’ve got to look after him.

“With the additions we've made to the squad and other guys waiting in the wings we've got good options.”

The possible replacements

The 3-4-3 system has worked well so far as the club’s default following work at the end of the Championship campaign and throughout pre-season which suggests a move to a back four is unlikely.

Smith has been a key player for Hearts with few others a natural fit at right wing-back.

Cammy Logan is the defender's replacement but he has been recovering from a back injury.

Moore, having come on in the position against Hibs, is the likely favourite to feature in the role but the Bristol City loanee is a centre-back by trade and often plays on the left of a back three.

Alternatively, Neilson could add more attacking threat to the team by playing Josh Ginnelly on the right.

The left side of Alex Cochrane and Stephen Kingsley could provide the solidity and balance to allow the Englishman to play more as a winger. It would likely mean more would be asked of John Souttar or the centre-back being given more protection by the central midfielders.

Other options include Andy Halliday and Aaron McEneff.

The former is a utility man and has played both in the centre and at left-back. His experience would see him through the game in the position with no issues.

McEneff has the energy to fulfil the role. The Irishman has been challenged to continue working hard having been left out of the squad for the derby.

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