Three things we learned from St Mirren 2 - 0 Hearts
Analysis of the action from St Mirren Park, as Hearts failed to score for the fifth consecutive game.
Confidence is now a major concern
Even though they recently lost 5-0 to Celtic, this was arguably the worst performance of Hearts' league season. The most striking aspect was just how poor Hearts were in possession when they were able to get into position in the final third. Results, or the lack thereof, have begun to weigh heavily on the shoulders of the players, especially in attack. Whether it was an unnecessary extra touch, a wrong decision with the final ball, an overhit pass, there was none of the verve witnessed throughout most of this season. Yes, injuries have been an issue, but even the Kilmarnock defeat was night and display compared with this.
The absent stars will return from injury eventually, with Christophe Berra and Steven Naismith expected to come back in December, but the danger now is that those who've been forced to carry the team in the interim are affected by the barren run to the extent that they can't replicate their early season form even when the aforementioned players are fit again.
The formation change didn't work
Manager Craig Levein originally gave his struggling side the benefit of the doubt. Though they lost against Kilmarnock prior to the international break, they were the better side on the day and he gave his men the chance to redeem themselves with an almost identical starting XI. Sean Clare replacing Olly Lee in the centre of midfield was the only change.
However, he pulled the very short leash early in the first half when it was clear Hearts were not going to even match the display of the Killie game. Craig Wighton went wide left with Arnaud Djoum making up a three-man midfield alongside Clare and Peter Haring, as Levein switched to a 4-3-3.
Unfortunately, there was no reaction from the team. Wighton struggled mightily throughout the first half and was hooked at the break. Lone striker Steven MacLean failed to have his usual influence and was largely anonymous, which can also be said for supporting wide players Callumn Morrison and Jake Mulraney, after the latter replaced Wighton.
There was a reaction from Lee
The midfielder was dropped from the starting XI after performing well below his standards in the defeat to Kilmarnock, but was introduced shortly into the second half for Clare. Hearts showed more purpose and urgency in possession when he was able to get on the ball, while his set-piece deliveries represented the only avenue the away side ever looked like scoring from. Though his late free-kick - hammered into the wall and then launched over the bar - summed up the visitors' afternoon, he can be fairly satisfied with his effort in a losing cause.