Talking point: For wounded Hearts it's simply a case of next man up

The Hearts players celebrate with Steven Naismith after the stand-in captain put the Tynecastle side 2-0 up.
The Hearts players celebrate with Steven Naismith after the stand-in captain put the Tynecastle side 2-0 up.
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The collective confidence of the Hearts support took a significant hit earlier this week - though it wasn't a permanent one.

The news that both centre-back John Souttar and striker Uche Ikpeazu would be joining captain Christophe Berra on the list of long-term absentees could scarcely have come at a more deflating time with the team top of the table and about to challenge Celtic in a League Cup semi-final.

However, once the dust had settled, fans were able to take stock of the situation and realise that, even without three of their best players, this was still a squad good enough to keep what looks to be a memorable season on track.

Even the loss of Michael Smith and Peter Haring, through suspension and injury, respectively, couldn't stop the league leaders from stretching their advantage at the summit to three points over Celtic.

That's because they were able to plug the gaps by replacing quality with quality. For the most part, those asked to come in and take full advantage of the opportunity granted by their team-mates' misfortune put in a strong showing in the 2-1 victory over Aberdeen.

Clevid Dikamona was solid at the heart of the defence alongside the always impressive Jimmy Dunne, Oliver Bozanic put in a tireless first-half display in the middle that his team-mate Haring would have been proud of, while Callumn Morrison provided a bit of burst on the right of midfield, which allowed Steven Naismith and Steven MacLean to partner each other in attack.

The only one who may not be 100 per cent satisfied with his performance was Marcus Godinho, who was given a tough time in the second half by substitute Niall McGinn. But seeing as the Canadian was playing his first game in six months, we can't be too harsh on the promising 21-year-old right-back.

There was also the sight of Sean Clare making his Hearts debut. His presence enabled the hosts to change the formation around into a 4-2-3-1, which helped stem the flow as Aberdeen were knocking on the door midway through the second period.

Time well tell how much the double blow affects Hearts going forward. Without the added depth it'll be even tougher to remain atop the pile. But if there was any notion that it would immediately derail their season, this was the perfect answer.