There could be other enforced absentees in the near future. Hearts responded to the capacity crowd, the new playing surface and the visit of the champions with a combative performance that saw them prevail courtesy of Lafferty’s eye-catching contribution, but they also incurred five cautions – two of them to their full-backs, Michael Smith and Ben Garuccio – and will have to be alert to the possibility of serious depletion of their back line.
In the meantime, though, Craig Levein and his players are entitled to savour the pleasure of six consecutive wins – including four in the Betfred Scottish League Cup – with 18 goals scored in the process. The meshing of incoming players has gratified Levein and one of the new men, Peter Haring, was named as the sponsors’ man of the match.
“It was the first time that I could enjoy a full Tynecastle Park and the crowd really helped us to push to the end and play with lots of energy for the whole game,” said the Austrian, who can play in midfield or defence and who has three goals to his credit already.
“The atmosphere was massive. I have never enjoyed something like that before. To beat Celtic in front of a full stadium, at home, was probably the most special day in my career so far.”
Now attention is likely to switch to Lafferty’s future if, as expected, Rangers return with an enhanced bid to take the Northern Ireland international back for a second spell at Ibrox and if, as is equally likely, Hearts increase the asking price, citing his fourth goal in two seasons against Celtic as justification.