Talking point: Hearts boss Craig Levein has food for thought ahead of trip to face Hibs

Injuries, suspensions and poor form have made it difficult to predict the Hearts XI from game to game.
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Hearts 2-0 Hamilton: Steven Naismith and Arnaud Djoum earn Jambos Boxing Day win

Craig Levein knows that more than most, having had to juggle his resources in recent weeks trying to unearth a collective to give his side the best chance of success.

The 2-0 win over Hamilton was a huge result ahead of the derby on Saturday following the recent 5-0 thumping by Livingston and defeat at Aberdeen.

Steven Naismith will be on the team-sheet for Hearts' trip to Easter Road.Steven Naismith will be on the team-sheet for Hearts' trip to Easter Road.
Steven Naismith will be on the team-sheet for Hearts' trip to Easter Road.
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Three points lifts spirits for the trip to Easter Road and gives the Hearts boss food for thought in terms of the XI he will select to face their Capital rivals.

The sight of both Arnaud Djoum and Peter Haring hobbling off in the second half prompted cause for concern with Levein admitting he was unsure on their injury status.

With the winter break in sight only a serious injury will keep either player out. The Hearts boss will make sure that the medical team do all they can do get the duo patched up and out on the pitch on Saturday.

If Djoum does make it his position will be of great interest. He netted his third goal of the season in securing the win before half-time on Boxing Day. However, his overall performance was not one of dominance. Fielded on the left he was on the periphery for long periods.

In the centre Olly Lee struggled to assert his influence. It is not a great sign when, as a central midfielder in a team which is dominating possession, you are largely anonymous. The Englishman was one of Hearts' better performers against Aberdeen but dropped back to a standard which was more in keeping with his performances in the past couple of months.

To get the best out of Djoum he requires a central role, and a Djoum-Haring axis with Steven Naismith in front would give Hearts a variety of ball-winning, craft, industry and creativity which is a pre-requisite for the Edinburgh derby, which is more 70 per cent battle, 30 per cent football.

Speaking of Naismith, he was excellent against Hamilton, even if Levein said the player would admit himself that he could have played better. But his vision and intelligence is so key to Hearts and it was no surprise that Steven MacLean had his best game in many a week with the ball sticking in the final third when it eventually got there.

There is still a tendency to take three touches when only one is required in the defensive and midfield third, but the return of Ben Garuccio and Callumn Morrison to the team against Accies gave Hearts a real thrust.

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With little defensive responsibility Garuccio was proactive from left-back, setting up the opening goal and he should have scored himself towards the end of the match. Levein warned Demetri Mitchell that he could find it hard to get back into the team following his red card against Aberdeen. On Garuccio's showing, the left-back position is his to lose.

Morrison was this writer's man of the match. Hearts are a different team with him in the line-up, a better team. At the start of the season he would get into good areas but his crossing was more often than not poor. It has developed since then. While still erratic on occasions, he is putting balls into more dangerous areas more frequently.

He is also the best attacking wide option. He plays with a fearlessness which fans appreciate. Get the ball, think positively, move forward, take the team up the pitch, commit players, excite supporters.

Levein would love to have Jimmy Dunne, John Souttar or Clevid Dikamona available for the Hibs game. With the trio out it means Michael Smith will continue at centre-back. That is no bad thing, he has been excellent in the role and seems more at ease there every passing second.

The issue Hearts have is that they don't have more than one Michael Smith so one could return to right-back - and possibly score penalties.

The next two days will be interesting as Levein ponders his options. If Haring and Djoum show positive signs in their recovery the Hearts boss will be very tempted to go with a same again approach.

If one or both are ruled out it poses a serious headache.

Yet, the current headache of poor form has been alleviated somewhat by the victory, albeit over a poor Hamilton side, with confidence on the up going into the final fixture of the year.

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