Three Hearts takeaways after chastening Betfred Cup semi-final against Rangers

Anthony Brown analyses three talking points from Hampden

Sunday, 3rd November 2019, 7:16 pm
Hearts' Aaron Hickey challenges Rangers' Borna Barisic. Pic: SNS
Hearts' Aaron Hickey challenges Rangers' Borna Barisic. Pic: SNS

A tough baptism for Austin

A semi-final victory over Rangers would have significantly strengthened his claims to landing the job on a permanent basis but, aside from containing the Ibrox side for almost half the game, Hearts never really looked capable of pulling off an upset. Without Uche Ikpeazu in attack, they looked impotent. Injuries to Glenn Whelan and Michael Smith, allied to the first-half substitution of Steven MacLean, completely disrupted his gameplan. The fact Rangers were at their irresistible best against what swiftly became a makeshift Hearts side made it a near-impossible task for the caretaker.

New manager, same old injury woes

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Craig Levein’s reign as Hearts manager looked to be cursed as he continually lost high-profile players to injury. Even with the former boss having been relieved of his duties on Thursday, however, Hearts continue to be undermined by fitness issues. At a time when they were doing well to contain Rangers, they lost Glenn Whelan, one of their most important players, to a hamstring injury. They then had to play the closing 37 minutes of the match without Michael Smith, their best player this season, after he succumbed to injury. These fresh injury blows overshadowed the welcome return of Steven Naismith following his own year of fitness woe.

Hickey needs protection

One of the highlights of Aaron Hickey’s fledgling career came at Hampden against Celtic just over five months ago. This Betfred Cup semi-final, however, was an altogether more chastening experience for the 17-year-old. Having made his name as a left-back, the youngster found himself deployed at right-back and centre-back against arguably the most dangerous attack in the country. Hickey has started the vast majority of games for a struggling Hearts team since making his breakthrough in May. The youngster could probably do with a short break from the firing line but the problem for Hearts is that they are so short of defensive options at present they can scarcely afford to give him a rest.