Gary Mackay: Run-in makes for an exciting lead-up to final

0
Have your say

Considering the performance Hearts put on against Dundee United at Tannadice, it’s disappointing that we didn’t get three points. I think it’s fair to say that any lingering hopes we had of catching Motherwell in third place are now gone.

With regards to making sure we get a Europa League slot by virtue of our league position, it’s now imperative that we get a win tomorrow night against a ’Well side who will be absolutely flying after their 5-1 win on Saturday. In fact, we probably need six points from our next two games, against ’Well and St Johnstone, because our last game is at Celtic Park.

If we can beat Motherwell tomorrow, it would take us a point behind United ahead of their trip to Ibrox the following night, which would put a bit of pressure on them. It would also take us ahead of Saints, who face Celtic on Thursday, so there’s definitely still plenty to play for.

It’s always harder to chase, and that’s what we’re having to do, but, as I’ve said before, with all that’s gone on this season, to be going into the last three games of the season still in with a shout of finishing in the European places is testament to the character in that dressingroom.

The way the team fought back twice away to the form team in the league shows just how strong the bond is in that squad. You can’t buy that togetherness between the coaching staff and the players. There’s other teams in the league who can sometimes capitulate when they goal down – no disrespect to Aberdeen, but even one of their own players said that they pretty much imploded after they went behind at Dunfermline.

By contrast, the way Hearts came back from those setbacks at Tannadice just shows that everything is right with the attitude and spirit of the squad and that is absolutely massive considering the magnitude of the games we have coming up over the next few weeks. Big characters will be needed and we know that we have that in abundance at Hearts.

The main positives from Saturday are that we had a few new faces throwing their hats into the ring for places in the closing weeks of the season and, ultimately, the Cup final. Arvydas Novikovas came on and scored a great goal, Suso made a good contribution to the game and David Templeton is now back in the fold. We now seem to have more and more forward players pushing themselves into contention for the cup final.

The fact these guys have come in and done well will perhaps give the manager the chance to rest some weary limbs in the lead-up to the final, although whatever he decides, I will trust his judgement entirely.

On the negative side, the forward player who is most important to us – Craig Beattie – is the one who picked up an injury on Saturday. We can only hope that it’s not too severe to put his involvement in the final at risk.

If Beattie recovers, we probably have at least eight players competing for four attacking places in the Cup final team. Rudi Skacel, Stephen Elliott, Beattie and Andrew Driver have been the manager’s preferred quartet in recent weeks, but Suso, Novikovas, Templeton and possibly even Gary Glen are also bound to be in his thoughts if they can finish the season strongly.

That would create a healthy competition for places as they guys who are in possession of the jersey would be desperate to avoid falling out of the team. This is definitely something that can give Hearts a wee edge over the next few games.

In the short term, I’m just really looking forward to our next two home games. Hearts, Motherwell and Saints all have something to play for, so I’m expecting a couple of really good games, hopefully with both resulting in home wins.