Gary Locke: Hearts can handle pressure of County clash

Gary Locke after the victory at Aberdeen. Ivan Sproule was one of two Ross County players sent off in yesterday's SPFL defeat to St Mirren
Gary Locke after the victory at Aberdeen. Ivan Sproule was one of two Ross County players sent off in yesterday's SPFL defeat to St Mirren
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GARY LOCKE believes Hearts have learned how to handle pressure at Tynecastle this season and will be better prepared for this weekend’s visit of Ross County.

Previous home matches against St Mirren and St Johnstone failed to yield victories despite expectation levels rising, and Locke feels his players are better off for those experiences. Hearts enter another must-win scenario on Saturday against the Highlanders as they try to close a 13-point deficit at the bottom of the Scottish Premiership. They beat on-form Aberdeen 3-1 at Pittodrie just over a week ago, halting a run of four successive league defeats, before the 0-0 friendly draw with Wolfsburg.

Ross County, edged out 2-1 at St Mirren in a rearranged match yesterday, have lost four of their last five games and the Edinburgh club will again find themselves as favourites at home. Locke stressed today that they can handle the occasion and aim for three points to possibly close the gap further.

“Expectations at this football club are high,” said the manager. “It doesn’t matter that we’ve got such a young and inexperienced team.

“I’d like to think we’ve learned from those two games against St Mirren and St Johnstone earlier on in the season and hopefully we can handle this one better and get three points.

“Every game is huge, they’re all cup finals as I’ve said all season, and this is another big one against Ross County. It’s important we start picking up points now.

“We’ve eaten into the 15-point deficit again, and if we’re to put pressure on the teams above us then we simply need to pick up points.

“We’re at home, it’s another difficult game, but hopefully we can put in a performance similar to the second half at Pittodrie.”