It HAS been another fruitful weekend for Hearts with none of our immediate rivals near the bottom of the table winning, while we picked up a massive point at Partick on Friday night.
I think the fact there is still another team on zero points from three games, while we’ve accumulated four points is massive for Hearts. That gives you hope, as County will be starting to look over their shoulders now.
For me, there were two really crucial factors for Hearts in Friday night’s game. One was the performance of Jamie MacDonald, whose saves and leadership laid the foundations for the draw. And the other was the enforced substitution for Partick which saw the young Edinburgh lad, Sean Welsh, have to go off injured. Sometimes players in the other team catch the eye, but he was absolutely running the game for Partick. They certainly missed his presence in the second half, when we came more into the game. Even then, it still required real spirit from Hearts to dig out a point.
I know the infectious enthusiasm Gary Locke and Billy Brown have and that shone through in the way the team fought back. Losing such a late goal would usually have disheartened a lot of teams, but Hearts responded brilliantly, which once again is testament to the spirit the management have generated among the group. Even after the equaliser, they still wanted to go and win the game and that’s the way it has to be for Hearts. If there are opportunities to go and win games, we can’t afford to be settling for a point when we’ve still got a deficit to eat into.
We’ve done well to get to four points out of nine, but it will be a really tall order to get to seven out of 12 this weekend. We’ve had a hard start to the season, but I think it’s safe to say, this Saturday’s visit from Aberdeen looks to be our hardest. It was tough enough getting a point away to Partick, but, in terms of player pedigree, the Dons are in a different league to Thistle – on paper at least. The crowd will again be required to play an integral part. Aberdeen will bring a huge support down the road, so it should be a great atmosphere. Whoever gets the first goal will subsequently lift their own support and that will probably be crucial in deciding the outcome. It will be a huge test for Hearts and if they can take anything from the game, I’ll be absolutely delighted.
If we didn’t have the points deduction, we’d be sitting in sixth place, so that certainly bodes well in terms of the way we have started in relation to our rivals. As well as Ross County, we’ve got to look towards the likes of St Mirren, Kilmarnock, Hibs and even Dundee United as they are the teams who haven’t managed to get going yet.
This weekend, County play St Mirren and Hibs are away at Kilmarnock, so, if we can get a result on Saturday, we are guaranteed to make more ground on at least a couple of our immediate rivals. It’s all about putting the teams above us under a bit of pressure.
All the players and managers can focus on just now is looking after their own results and, if we can keep picking up home wins and away draws on a regular basis, everything else will take care of itself. All we want right now is to see another team within touching distance and that’s going to take a few weeks yet. We’ve just got to keep chipping away, though.
On a more sombre note, I’d like to pass on my condolences to the family of the former Hearts player, Johnny Hamilton. I only met him a couple of times, but he was always a lively and bubbly character and he’ll be sadly missed.