Sergio gives MacDonald his blessing

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Hearts goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald could be handed a further chance to establish himself in Paulo Sergio’s first-team plans, says the manager.

Regular custodian Marian Kello was doubtful for today’s visit to Inverness, and Sergio admitted he would have no qualms about throwing in MacDonald for a rare start.

The former Scotland under-21 goalkeeper saved a penalty and impressed sufficiently against Tottenham Hotspur in London last month during his only previous start under the Portuguese boss, who took charge five weeks ago.

Although he was then dropped to the bench – only to emerge as a substitute for the final six minutes in place of regular No.1 Kello for the subsequent match against Hibs a fortnight ago – MacDonald looks to be winning his battle with Janos Balogh to be Hearts’ top back-up keeper.

Asked if 25-year-old MacDonald would get an opportunity to impress further in senior action, Sergio said: “Why not? I trust him. What he did in London gives me all the things to trust him a lot.”

Kello, MacDonald, and Balogh have battled for the No.1 jersey for the past three years, but last season the latter two had to settle for a place on the bench as Kello firmly established himself. Under Sergio, Kello appears to remain the top choice, but the boss is delighted at the extent of competition for his last line of defence.

“I’m happy with all my goalkeepers. I don’t know Balogh, because he hasn’t worked with me since I arrived because of a back problem. I trust a lot in Jamie, so if Kello is not ready, Jamie is going to play.”

MacDonald has been limited to 21 starts in his nine years at Hearts, but is very much in