Match Preview: Ross County (H)20 April 2023
The Staggies will arrive in Gorgie as the side at the foot of the table but will be hoping to pick up three points to lift them off bottom spot in the final round of fixtures before the split.
County have been a difficult side to predict this season. They ended a run of three straight losses with victory over St Johnstone in their last away match but were then beaten by Aberdeen in a tight content in Dingwall last Friday.
Hearts will be hoping home advantage can play a factor as Steven Naismith looks to pick up his first win as interim manager.
The head-to-head reads well from a Hearts perspective, the Jambos have been victorious in both meetings between the sides this season.
A 2-1 victory at Tynecastle on the opening day of the season was backed up by a hard-fought win in Dingwall by the same scoreline in October.
Ones to watch:
The Staggies appear to be going through a mini-injury crisis at the minute with the likes of Eamonn Brophy, Ben Paton, Ross Callachan and Jordan Tillson expected to miss the trip to Gorgie, however, there was a welcome return to action for creative midfielder Yan Dhanda, who came off the bench against the Dons last time out.
Malky McKay is likely to stick with the same back three that started against Aberdeen with skipper Keith Watson and Jack Baldwin alongside 16-year-old Dylan Smith, who has impressed in recent matches.
Into midfield, Victor Loturi and Nohan Kenneh will provide plenty of steel and energy, but the creativity is likely to come from either Josh Sims or Dhanda.
Out wide, former Jambo Connor Randall and George Harmon will be looking to get forward from wing back to deliver crosses for strikers Jordan White and Simon Murray.
Hearts remain without long-term absentees Craig Gordon, Craig Halkett, and Gary Mackay-Steven. Beni Baningime and Liam Boyce made their return to full-time training, but this match is likely to come too soon, whereas Michael Smith picked up an injury in last weekend’s Edinburgh derby and will be unavailable.
At the pre-match media conference, Naisy said:
“We needed a result last week and we need one again this week. It’s hard because what we’re seeing on the training pitch, in meetings, how responsive the players have been with their feedback. But that doesn’t get you success.
“What gets you success is playing on a Saturday, playing with freedom and enjoyment – and that’s what gets you results. That’s what we need every Saturday between now and the end of the season.”