Hearts sweat over fitness of duo for key St Mirren clash

Internationalists picked up injuries in Rangers semi-final

Thursday, 7th November 2019, 6:00 am
Glenn Whelan

Hearts pair Glenn Whelan and Michael Smith are battling to be fit for Saturday’s bottom-of-the-table showdown with St Mirren at Tynecastle.

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The key duo were both substituted in Sunday’s 3-0 defeat by Rangers after picking up muscle injuries. Republic of Ireland internationalist Whelan came off with a hamstring problem, while Smith, who was yesterday named in the Northern Ireland squad for their upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Netherlands and Germany, tweaked his left quad. Both players are continually being assessed to establish if they will be available for this weekend’s clash with a Saints side who sit level on points with them at the foot of the Premiership table.

Winger Jake Mulraney remains on the sidelines with the ankle ligament injury he sustained in the league game against Rangers. However, caretaker manager Austin MacPhee, who has taken the squad to St Andrews this week to prepare for Saturday’s match, will have the option of restoring talisman Steven Naismith to the starting lineup for the first time in three months and only the second time since February after the 33-year-old, who was this week named in the Scotland squad for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Cyprus and Kazakhstan, came through his 37-minute outing at Hampden on Sunday unscathed. Fellow attacker Jamie Walker is also pushing for his first start since breaking his leg almost three months ago.

Meanwhile, Aidan Keena, Hearts’ 20-year-old striker, yesterday received his first-ever call-up to the Republic of Ireland Under-21 squad for this month’s European Championship qualifiers against Armenia and Sweden.