Not only will yesterday’s derby defeat at Tynecastle be hard to take for everyone connected with the club, but the effect of such an important game could prove catastrophic should we allow this result to fester.
Of course, the derby fixture is one we all look forward to, but the future of the club is the most important aspect at this moment in time and that means ensuring our SPL status between now and the end of the season.
We also have a big game against Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup semi-final on the horizon but our performances will have to improve dramatically if we are to give ourselves any chance of progressing to the final in May. It was exactly five years yesterday since we lifted the League Cup and were a side in the ascendency, a force to be reckoned with in the SPL. Today, we couldn’t be further away from this lofty position and only reinforces how times can change so quickly. I was hopeful this was the beginning of a new era at the club but sadly, things have taken a turn for the worse where we have tasted limited success since our triumph that day.
The Edinburgh derby is an experience like no other SPL fixture and portrays a tempo and intensity that can pass you by if you are not mentally switched on. I felt a number of our players struggled to cope with the surroundings of this fixture, and apart from one or two flurries in the second half, Hearts looked much more comfortable and deserved winners in the end. The most disappointing aspect over the 90 minutes was our inability to defend balls coming through the centre of our defence, and ultimately proved so costly with the opening goal. There is no doubt Hearts had done their homework and recognised quickly this could be a profitable tactic and exploited this throughout the game.
Experience is everything in this fixture where the rivalry between the sides should not be underestimated. The new players brought to the club in January will now be fully aware of how important such a game is and losing to your local rivals can take some considerable time to accept and move on, particularly with the supporters.
At the moment, we resemble a side incapable of putting a winning run together which will only add to the tension surrounding the club. Unfortunately, this will show no sign of diminishing unless our all-round game improves substantially. With so many players below par yesterday, the manager will have to work tirelessly to lift the spirits for the battle against relegation as we can’t afford to rely on Dunfermline doing us a favour every week. It is so easy in football to become distracted and think the job is done, only to then realise the precarious position we find ourselves in which continues to loom on the players’ backs. This is why it imperative we start winning matches. There cannot be any excuses as the players have now been together as a unit for a number of weeks and have a huge responsibility on their shoulders carrying the club into a safe position.
With the imminent appointment of a new manager at Dunfermline, their own group of players will be looking to play an important part between now and the end of the season and will look to impress. We must be up for the challenge should they begin to pick up points and display a mental toughness that could prove so invaluable. Should we fail to rise individually and collectively as a team then the worst possible conclusion to our season may become a tragic reality.
The victory last week over Ayr United had temporarily taken away the focus of our troubled league campaign but hopefully the realisation of the defeat to Hearts will sink in amongst the players. As I have spoken about before, we have eight cup finals between now and May and we must be ready for the challenge. I just hope the players take stock of the trouble we are in if they haven’t already and ensure the club remains where it belongs.