Hearts confident they can cope despite uncertainty over Frankie Kent injury

The Jambos defender has become a key man but there are options to replace him

Steven Naismith is confident Hearts are equipped to cope with the loss of influential defender Frankie Kent to injury ahead of Sunday’s Tynecastle showdown with title-chasing Celtic.

The 28-year-old Englishman was in clear discomfort in the closing stages of Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with city rivals Hibs after hurting his knee, but he stayed on the park until the end. However, Naismith revealed on Friday that Kent, who has become one of Hearts’ key men since joining from Peterborough last summer, will miss Sunday’s match. It is unclear if he will be fit to return for the Scottish Cup quarter-final away to Morton on Monday, March 11. Kent’s absence comes at a time when fellow defender Craig Halkett is waiting to learn the extent of his latest injury setback, but Naismith is satisfied that he has enough dependable centre-back options available in Toby Sibbick, Kye Rowles and Stephen Kingsley.

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“Frankie struggled at the end of the game and he’s had a scan so he’ll be out for a week or two,” said the Hearts boss. “Frankie’s come in and had a really good season and that’s shown in the defensive side of our game this season, so it’s disappointing to lose him but it (the prognosis) is better than what it could have been. It creates an opportunity for someone else to come in and show why they’re part of the squad and show that they should be in the starting XI. Kye’s obviously come back from the Asia Cup, we’ve got Toby, and Kingsley’s done well in there as well so we’ve got options.”

Frankie Kent injured his knee playing for Hearts against Hibs.Frankie Kent injured his knee playing for Hearts against Hibs.
Frankie Kent injured his knee playing for Hearts against Hibs.

Hearts – 12 points clear in third place in the cinch Premiership – are aiming to get back on track on Sunday after their 5-0 defeat away to Rangers last Saturday was followed by an underwhelming Edinburgh derby draw in midweek. Prior to their Ibrox thrashing, the Jambos had been on a 12-game unbeaten run in all competitions, featuring 11 victories. Naismith is hoping his side can capitalise on any tension that may creep into the Celtic ranks as the Hoops attempt to play catch-up on title rivals Rangers, who host Motherwell on Saturday.

“From my experiences, when you’ve got a title race that’s neck and neck, the game on the Saturday and the outcome of that can have an impact on the Sunday, and that rolls on every week until the title’s decided,” said Naismith, a former Gers player. “We’ve got to use that, plus the fact we’re at home and that we’ve been on a really good run of form, to our advantage.

“We’ve got to use all the confidence we’ve built over the last three or four months to give ourselves a good chance of winning. We want to start the game well and show that we’ve got a bit of punch about us. It’s about getting control in these games. If you’re going to sit and defend for 90 minutes, you’re just asking to bring on pressure and inevitably allow them chances. When we have the ball we need to make sure we make the right choices and carry a threat. And an early goal would be nice.”