Hearts v Hamilton preview: One in, two out on injury front | options in attack | Accies' dreadful Tynecastle record

Hearts are still looking for their first win in the Ladbrokes Premiership season as they sit joint-bottom of the table after three games.

Friday, 30th August 2019, 15:14 pm
Steven Naismith battles for possession with Hamilton's Shaun Want during Hearts' 2-0 win last Boxing Day.

The 2-1 Betfred Cup victory at Hamilton's Lanarkshire rivals Motherwell lifted spirits in the Hearts dressing room, though they were brought back down to earth slightly by the 3-1 defeat at Celtic Park.

They will be buoyed by the return of Steven Naismith from injury. The experienced attacker limped off at half-time of the 0-0 draw with Ross County and there's no doubt Hearts are better when he's on the park.

Steven Naismith battles for possession with Hamilton's Shaun Want during Hearts' 2-0 win last Boxing Day.

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It'll be interesting to see if he's thrown back into the starting XI or used from the bench. Also, Uche Ikpeazu has been gunning for a place having been left on the bench for the last two matches. He impressed after coming on against Celtic and could start if Levein decides to switch to a two-up-top system.

Hearts team news

Naismith is back but this match may come a little too early for John Souttar. Definitely out are Michael Smith and Joel Pereira. Both players were injured in the win over Celtic but neither should be long-term problems. Jamie Walker, Peter Haring, Craig Wighton and Ben Garuccio remain on the sidelines.

Harry Cochrane and Anthony McDonald are unlikely to play for Hearts again this season after completing loan moves to Dunfermline Athletic. Incoming signing Ryotaro Meshino will not be ready in time to face Accies.

Possible Hearts line-up

Doyle; Brandon, Halkett, Berra, Hickey; Damour, Whelan; Clare, Naismith, Mulraney; Washington. Subs from: Zlamal, Dikamona, Souttar, Burns, Irving, Bozanic, Henderson, Ikpeazu, MacLean, Morrison

Magic number

1977 - The last time Accies defeated Hearts at Tynecastle. In the 19 games at the famous ground since they've lost 16 and drawn twice.

Key battle

It's hard to know exactly what the Hearts attack will be as a lot of it will depend on whether Steven Naismith is fully fit to start the match. If he does he could feature on either wing, up front or behind the striker. Regardless, it seems likely that Conor Washington will be in the team. The Northern Irishman has netted in each of his last two games and has looked much sharper than his early outings in the Betfred Cup. Accies don't have their problems to seek in defence. Youngster Jamie Hamilton will be suspended after his red card at Motherwell with Alex Gogic likely to drop into the back four in his place.

What the manager said

“I would be happy going into the Hamilton game with the players we’ve got. I feel we are good enough to win that match. Sunday against Celtic was strange because it’s normally clear-cut whether we played well or not. Those two things are always at the forefront of my mind.

“If we haven’t played well, then obviously we need to do better. If we have played well, I’ll pat the players on the back. On Sunday, it was a bit of both. The frustration for me is that I believe so much in this group of players. We just need to eke a little bit more confidence and improvement out of them, then we will be off and running.”

Referee

Greg Aitken typically gets more Championship games than top flight encounters. He has not refereed a match involving Hearts since August 2015. Robbie Neilson's men managed to defeat Forfar Athletic to reach the next stage of the League Cup, though they did require extra-time in order to do so.

Odds

Hearts 2/5 Draw 7/2 Hamilton 7/1