Proud Gary Locke reckons yesterday’s hard-fought 2-1 win over Hibs epitomised the spirit of togetherness that has helped Hearts through this ultra-challenging season.
The manager admitted it wasn’t a vintage performance as his on-form side made it 13 points from their last five games while recording a fourth victory in five Edinburgh derbies this season.
However, after seeing Hearts hold on to triumph courtesy of a first-half headed double from Callum Paterson, the manager was buoyed by the growing level of maturity his side showed, even though they played second fiddle to a fired-up Hibs side in the second half.
“We had to show a different type of performance,” Locke told the Evening News. “In the last couple of months we’ve won games and played really well, but this one was all about digging in. You could see the spirit in the camp, with every single player pulling for each other, and that’s the way it’s been all season.
“We knew it was going to be difficult and that Hibs would make the game physical, but the boys stood up to that and more than held their own.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of the players because they’ve worked really hard on the training pitch and in the gym and we’re now seeing the benefits of that. We possibly might have chucked that game away earlier in the season, but we’re not as naïve as we were and we’re not making the same mistakes we were making earlier in the season. We didn’t play brilliantly, I thought Hibs were the better side in the second half, but we dug in.”
Jubilant scenes unfolded as the Hearts squad gathered in front of their 3600 supporters at full-time, with Locke dedicating the latest victory to those who helped roar the team over the line.
“Our supporters have been through so much in the last couple of the years so this result was for them,” he said. “To see our fans at the end, with so many smiles on their faces, was great. The backing they gave us was absolutely fantastic and the players certainly responded to that. When they come out and see a full house and see the fans singing and getting behind the team like that, it gives them a massive lift.”
Locke singled out Scott Robinson after the 22-year-old stepped up to provide some vital leadership to a young Hearts midfield in the absence of the suspended Jamie Hamill.
“Scott was brilliant, different class,” said the manager. “Looking at the team we had out, he was one of the most experienced players and he was the one that tried to put his foot on the ball and make a pass. He played very well.”
He also had words of praise for the remarkable workrate of striker Dale Carrick, who barely got a sight of goal as he sought to score for a fourth successive match.
“It was one of those days for Dale,” said Locke.
“He didn’t get a lot of joy but he chased everything and he gave Hibs problems. He was absolutely knackered when I took him off at the end and that’s what I expect from every player.”