Michael Smith rated doubtful for Hearts-Aberdeen clash

Michael Smith
Michael Smith
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Michael Smith is a doubt for Saturday’s match against Aberdeen after a recurring back problem forced him to miss Hearts’ draw with Dundee.

The Northern Irish right-back, who has been playing central midfield in recent matches, would have started at Dens Park on Sunday if he hadn’t been afflicted by pain in the days leading up to the match.

Smith will be monitored this week before a decision is taken on whether he will be fit enough to return to the side for this weekend’s meeting with the Dons at Tynecastle. “Michael had a problem with his back in training,” manager Craig Levein told the Evening News. “He’s had it previously – it comes and goes. He missed a few games before the winter break with it, but he had an injection and that seemed to help. We’ll just need to wait and see how it settles down and then take a decision about whether he needs another injection. I don’t know yet if he’ll be able to solider on through it. We’ll see how he is in terms of being able to play against Aberdeen.”

Smith’s place in midfield was taken by Ross Callachan, who had dropped out of the side for the previous two matches after a costly mistake in the Scottish Cup defeat at Motherwell last month. The former Raith Rovers player marked his return to the side with his fourth goal of the season against Dundee. “It was good to see Ross come back with a goal,” said Levein. “He did well and scored a really good goal. It was good for him to get back involved.”

Levein confirmed that right-back Connor Randall, who was initially named among the substitutes on Sunday, had to be removed from the squad at the last minute after taking ill before kick-off. His place on the bench was taken by 16-year-old Chris Hamilton. “Connor was sick twice before the match so we had to take him off the bench and put young Chrissy in,” said the manager. “Hopefully he’ll be okay for Aberdeen.”

Danny Amankwaa made his third start for Hearts and his second in successive matches on Sunday. The Danish winger, who joined from FC Copenhagen in January on an 18-month contract, was unable to make a telling impact in the final third at Dens Park, but Levein has high hopes for him once he finds his stride. “Danny was slow at the start - he didn’t really get into the game but when we did get him into the game, I felt good about him being on the ball,” said the manager. “He’s certainly got good strength and technique and likes to take players on. I still don’t think he’s up to speed fitness-wise but I like what I see. I think he’s going to be a big asset for us.”