Friday 9th January 2015

GAME 20 of the SPFL Championship season has league pace-setters Hearts visit the Rock for the second time this campaign.

The Tynecastle club are unbeaten in 19 matches and have an unenviable record in the division as they march towards the league title.

Sons manager Ian Murray tipped Robbie Neilson’s team to front-runners in the summer and he’s not surprised at the look of the table.

He said: “Hearts are a very good team. They play expansive football and have proven to be a handful for every club.

“Last time we played them at our place, we secured a point with a 0-0 draw and tomorrow a repeat performance would be great.

“We’re nine points clear of the relegation zone, but it’s too soon to be thinking anything other than keeping distance between us and the teams at the bottom of the league.

“Form of late has been great and we were extremely unlucky to lose at Ibrox last weekend, so we go into the Hearts game with confidence.

“This will be Kano’s last game for us and after a year with us on and off, we say cheerio with a heavy heart as he’s been brilliant.

“We tried very hard to persuade St Johnstone to let him stay longer, but that’s not going to happen, unfortunately.

“With only two loan deals left for the squad, we need to be careful in who we get in.

“But our focus is fully on what happens tomorrow and if we approach the game as positively as we’ve been doing, there’s no reason why we can’t compete.

“However it will not be a game that defines our season.”

Chris Kane ends his loan spell tomorrow and will be hoping to sign-off with a goal before heading back to McDiarmid Park. The treatment room at the Rock is less crowded than of late and Jordan Kirkpatrick continues his recovery process but it is likely to be too early for him to feature.

Youngsters Donald McCallum and Keir Whitefield could again be involved following making an appearance on the bench last week at Ibrox.

Hearts are the team to catch in the Championship and are unbeaten so far. Five wins in the last six games including a 1-1 draw against Edinburgh rivals Hibs is impressive. For Sons, it’s a case of three wins in six, the last against Cowdenbeath two weeks ago.

In the last meeting between the teams, Sons fought hard at Tynecastle in October, but still ended up going down by four goals to a resurgent Hearts side, with the final score ending up 5-1. Garry Fleming grabbed Dumbarton’s consolation goal.

Dumbarton former assistant manager Jack Ross is now a coach at Tynecastle with responsibility for Hearts’ development team and he’ll be sure of a warm welcome at the Rock when he returns on 10th January.

Alan Findlay & Simon Barrow

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