Talking point: International break gives Hearts time to regroup

If Celtic win at Livingston on Sunday Hearts will go into the international break sitting second in the league and off the back of a 1-0 defeat to Kilmarnock.

Saturday, 10th November 2018, 5:11 pm
Updated Monday, 12th November 2018, 7:51 pm
Steven MacLean was denied a goal by the linesman's offside flag.
Steven MacLean was denied a goal by the linesman's offside flag.

It's a real double whammy for the Gorgie side and their fans with the winless streak extending to four matches, three of which have been lost, following Ross Millen's second-half winner at Tynecastle. That goal and the subsequent frustration in searching for an equaliser is the culmination of a trying few weeks for Craig Levein and his charges.

The team responded brilliantly to the news that defender John Souttar and striker Uche Ikpeazu would both miss between five and six months of the season. Deserved wins were earned over Aberdeen and Dundee. But then, in the Betfred cup semi-final against Celtic, Steven Naismith sat down on the turf. At that moment the biggest shift in Hearts' campaign occurred.

Since he limped off at Murrayfield Hearts have gone 352 minutes without scoring. His influence is even more obvious now he is out the team. Levein hopes to have the player back before the winter break which should mean he is in place for the Edinburgh derby at Easter Road at least and his craft, guile, intelligence, experience and overall quality will be welcomed back with open arms. Before travelling to Leith on 29 December Hearts have seven fixtures, four of which fall under the tricky category.

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Between now and the trip to St Mirren in two week's time there is the international break which will allow Craig Levein to get to work on the training ground and shape his charges for the challenges ahead, which include Rangers at Tynecastle and trips to St Johnstone, Livingston and Aberdeen. It can act as a mini pre-season to bring the likes of Craig Wighton and Sean Clare up to speed or simply reshape the system to get the best out of the available personnel.

A lot has been made of the injuries to key individuals but is now time for everyone to focus on what Levein has to work with the Heart boss stating in his post-match interview he is now relying on younger players.

Now is the time to regroup, have a rethink and embark on another run once the league gets back underway at the end of November, whether that be from the top of the league or second place.