Hearts news: Stat that highlights reason behind recent run ahead of key St Mirren clash

There was a reason Hearts moved so swiftly to tie up as many of their defensive assets.

Craig Halkett and John Souttar will be back together again in Hearts' defence.
Craig Halkett and John Souttar will be back together again in Hearts' defence.

While John Souttar has made the decision to move on in the summer, goalkeeper Craig Gordon and defenders Craig Halkett, Stephen Kingsley and Michael Smith have all extended their contracts and on top of their collective experience, they bring stability to the team.

That is something that has been missing in recent outings when the backline became the focus of several reshuffles as injury and illness intervened.

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The Gorgie side have conceded 29 goals in their 27 league games this season but almost a third of them came in the last three Premiership outings as they succumbed to back to back defeats for the first time this season. Which is why manager Robbie Neilson will welcome the opportunity to revert to the backline which provided such strong foundations earlier in the campaign when they head through to Paisley on Saturday.

“At the start of the season we went on this brilliant unbeaten run,” said Halkett. “We also picked up a lot of points over the Christmas period and managed to build up a good gap. Obviously over the last few weeks a lot of the teams around us have started to pick up points so it highlights how important the last few results have been when we haven't been picking up the points. From our point of view it's just about getting our heads down again, working hard and playing at a level we know we can do and picking up more points?”

While Smith returns from a shorter-term niggle and Gordon, along with striker Liam Boyce, has recovered from covid, it is the rehabilitation of Halkett, sooner than expected, that has bolstered expectations that Hearts can get their season up and running again and power through to a top three finish, and a shot at silverware.

Out for the last six games with a hamstring injury sustained in last months loss to Celtic, the former Rangers and Livingston centre-back says those were the kind of ambitions he harboured when he signed.

“This is me in my third full season here and I have another couple to come after that. When I first signed with Hearts it was all about coming to a club which is big in Scotland, gets into the European places and plays at cup finals, stuff like that. Obviously I had a small taste of that with the Scottish Cup a year and a half ago, but what happened happened and now Hearts are back to being the club I knew and the club I thought I was signing for.”

And, he wants it to be more than a one-season surge, which is why the club’s endeavours to ensure continuity in the backline has been embraced.

“It's huge,” said Halkett. “From the manager's point of view it wouldn't have been great for him if he had been needing to replace three, four, five players in the summer. Thankfully, myself, Craig and Kingsley all signed, and Michael Smith as well. That's three or four of your back five already there, in place. We know each other really well on and off the park so we've got a solid base to build on for next year.”

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