Craig Halkett shares Hearts European football dream as he looks to stake Scotland World Cup claim

CRAIG HALKETT knows Hearts are going places and he hopes it will allow him to get his passport out for his first European adventure.

The Jambos lost six first-team stars through injury at Tannadice but still managed to show their resolve by battling back for a valuable point.

It has been seen Hearts take seven points from a possible nine and also strengthen their grip on third place. Robbie Neilson might not admit it but anything other than a late collapse should see them finish best of the rest for the first time since 2015-16.

Hearts already have a double-digit lead over fourth place and it could put them into the play-off round of the Europa League if any of the top three were to lift the Scottish Cup.

It would be uncharted territory for Halkett, who has yet to sample European football.

The 26-year-old stated: “It would be a dream come true for me to play in Europe. It is something I have never achieved in my career but it is one of the reasons I wanted to join Hearts when I left Livingston.

“It was a massive club with a great fanbase, a club who makes semi-finals and finals regularly and contests for trophies.

“The club has been in Europe before and to be part of the team which made it back into Europe after just getting promoted would be massive.”

Hearts can now put the league to one side and concentrate on St Mirren in the Scottish Cup quarter-finals. Halkett knows a very good season has the potential to get even better.

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“It’s been a great season for us so far,” the former Livingston star claimed. At the start of the season people look at us coming back into the Premiership and we are one of the top teams in the country.

“Some people said it would be good if we finished in the top six. But as a squad, we know how good we are and we always viewed ourselves as a club who should be targeting Europe.

“There’s a long way to go and we know we have to make sure we finish the job and make it to Europe. We are in third right now and that shows how good a season it has been for us.”

Halkett was the hero as his late equalizer saw the injury-hit Jambos take a point. His impressive form of him has seen Neilson tip his prize defender for a Scotland call-up.

The Tynecastle favorite proudly stated: “It’s great to hear the gaffer saying he thinks I could be selected for Scotland.

“From my point of view it’s just about getting my head down and playing as well as I can for Hearts.

I need to try and get us in the best position we can in the league and if a Scotland cap came on the back of that I would be absolutely delighted.

“I don’t worry about it too much though, I just worry about producing the goods on the park and what will be will be.

“I can’t deny it, every player dreams of playing for your country. It would be an honor to play for Scotland and the family would be over the moon. But right now it’s about playing for Hearts and doing my best for them.”

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Hearts made the perfect start taking a first minute lead. John Souttar blocked a Nicky Clark shot and Hearts broke.

Gary Mackay-Steven found Liam Boyce and he dispatched it across Benjy Siegrist.

The Edinburgh side were in control but injuries to Mackay-Steven, Cammy Devlin, Nathaniel Atkinson, John Souttar and Alex Cochrane saw them lose a grip, while Josh Ginnelly limped off at the end of the game.

United were flat in the first half but roared into it after the break thanks to a long-range rocket from Liam Smith. They then got a penalty when Nicky Clark was tripped in the box, which he netted from the spot.

United looked like they would win it until Halkett sneaked his header in at the back stick from a corner. A relieved Halkett acknowledged: “It was a frantic 90 minutes.

“The early goals in both halves and the injuries and bookings didn’t help. It was a game that never had much flow and neither team was able to put their style on the game and play nice football.

“Overall I would think both sides would be happy with the point. We are slightly frustrated not to take all three but to come back from a goal down, having lost so many players due to injury, we will take the point.

“That’s seven points from the last three games so we have to be happy with that.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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