Hearts fear Craig Halkett will be out for months with ligament damage
Hearts manager Craig Levein fears defender Craig Halkett will be out for months after suffering a knee injury at St Mirren.
Halkett trudged off 25 minutes into the 0-0 draw in Paisley after a collision with Saints Kyle Magennis inside his own penalty area. French midfielder Loic Damour was also forced off before the interval.
Levein reported that Halkett has likely damaged medial knee ligaments on the day he donned the captain's armband with Christophe Berra on the substitutes' bench.
Damour's problem is not thought to be serious but Halkett is expected to be long-term. Management are frustrated as Hearts' relentless injury problems continue.
"My biggest disappointment is Craig's knee injury," said Levein. " Last week was the first time we had played a match when I didn't have to take somebody off before half-time. I thought we had got over that and today I had to take two players off before the interval.
"The boy has caught him on the outside of the knee and forced the inside medial side of the knee open and damaged the ligaments.
"Craig had the captain's armband on because of his performances for the team so far this season. I feel so sorry for him. He was really stepping up and becoming the really important player I thought he would be. I'm sick for him. That's another one of our best players on the sidelines. I think it will be months.
"Loic's hamstring was tight. That wasn't really a major problem. He hardly played for Cardiff in the Premier League last year and he played in a tough match the other night and was just a wee bit tired, but Craig is a blow for us."
Levein explained why he left Berra out of the starting line-up following wins over Hibs and Aberdeen in the last week. "He had a reconstruction of his hamstring last season. I felt with him, Michael, Steven MacLean, Glenn Whelan, there were older players on the field I was a wee bit concerned about. All credit to Cristophe because I thought he did really well when he came on [for Halkett].
"It's been a physically and mentally tough week. The longer the game went today, the better we got. The disappointment is we didn't win. I feel frustrated. The players have put a lot into all three performances this week. The tiredness showed in the last third today but I can't fault them. Aberdeen didn't get anything here and St Mirren ran Rangers right to the wire. I've got to compliment Jim Goodwin on his team and tactics."
Hearts' best performer in Paisley was the outstanding Michael Smith, who played centrally in a back three for most of the afternoon. "He is brilliant. He can play anywhere and I thought he was coolness personified at centre-back. He's going to have to be really good there next week as well," said Levein.