Keep on the run

Billy Brown knows Hearts must seek to continue their impressive run in a crucial period of games at the top of the league if they are to be considered genuine title contenders. The assistant manager met the assembled press on Friday as manager Jim Jefferies was in Lithuania at a scheduled meeting with Hearts majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov. Romanov must be impressed by events in Edinburgh, with Jefferies steering the club to a run of eight wins in nine games - before Tuesday night's 1-0 loss to St Johnstone - which led some to suggest third-placed Hearts could challenge Celtic and Rangers for the title. The Scottish Cup defeat means Hearts can now focus on the SPL, which continues with the trip to Dundee United.

Brown said: "It has been a great run. It was going to come to an end sometime and it's now how we react after the other night. It was the first defeat in 10 games and if we don't have another poor result and poor performance for the next 10 games we will be quite happy with that. There's a long, long way to go. We're up there because of the results we've had and if we can keep playing the way we have been there's no reason we can't have a really good end to the season. We have hard games to come - away to Dundee United, away to Kilmarnock, home to Rangers, home to St Johnstone and away to Rangers. It's a very difficult period, but if after that we're still in the position we are - still third and not many points behind the Old Firm - we'll have a good end to the season.''

For the short term at least, Hearts may have to continue their run without two of their most impressive players this season. Rudi Skacel is definitely out of today's game with a calf injury, while Kevin Kyle has had a cortisone injection to treat a groin injury and will be given every chance to prove his fitness. Brown added: "
He's desperate to play, he loves being involved and we'll give him every chance to make it'' . Brown does not anticipate Hearts will delve into the transfer market as a result of the injuries. He said: "We have plenty of players at this club. One thing we don't lack is numbers so we have plenty of options. Kevin might not be out for the weekend and there are other options."