Three things learned from St Mirren 0-0 Hearts: Christophe Berra, injuries and a new sweeper keeper

Hearts' 0-0 draw at St Mirren threw up three points worth noting

Saturday, 28th September 2019, 6:59 pm
Christophe Berra gives a smile on the Hearts bench in Paisley

BIG BERRA CALL

Leaving Christophe Berra out of Hearts' starting line-up was a major decision for manager Craig Levein. Perhaps equally as notable was who donned the captain's armband in his absence. Craig Halkett captained Livingston and made a fine job of it, plus he has probably been Hearts' overall best player so far this season. John Souttar is officially vice-captain of the Edinburgh club but it shows just how highly Halkett is regarded that he was selected as captain for the day ahead of more experienced internationalists like Michael Smith and Glenn Whelan. His injury was another curse Hearts didn't need and all concerned will hope it is nothing major.

SMITH IS A KEEPER AT SWEEPER

Sign up to our Hearts newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

If Hearts continue playing a three-man back line, it is imperative Michael Smith features in the centre of whichever triumvirate is selected. The sweeper role suits him perfectly as he can defend and distribute with expertise. That helps to initiate attacks and gives the goalkeeper an option to pass rather than kick the ball out. Smith has grown in strength in the last two seasons and is now a vital part of the team. He reads the game superbly whether playing full-back or centre-back, making him an ideal candidate to play in the middle of a back three going forward.

INJURIES AGAIN

Hearts sustained another two injuries in Paisley, which is the last thing they need. Steven Naismith, John Souttar, Peter Haring, Jamie Walker, Conor Washington, Ben Garuccio and Craig Wighton are all currently sidelined - so seeing Craig Halkett and Loic Damour forced off before the interval was hugely concerning. Halkett seemed to go down after an incident in the penalty box and Hearts feat he has damaged medial ligaments, which could mean months on the sidelines. Damour took a knock on his leg and eventually had to trudge off. He is not expected to be missing long-term but Halkett - one of Hearts' strongest players so far this season - will be badly missed.