HEARTS have learned their defensive lessons in recent weeks, according to manager Gary Locke, who expects a much meaner rearguard to take the club into the New Year.
The 7-0 Scottish Cup loss to Celtic prompted action at Riccarton and defenders have responded to the challenge set by Locke.
Last weekend saw a disciplined Hearts display in Glasgow as Celtic recorded a 2-0 league win over the Edinburgh club. Locke was pleased with the progress made since his team were annihilated in the cup fixture just three weeks beforehand. Now he wants further improvement at the back to underpin an attempt to recover Hearts’ points deficit at the bottom of the league.
“I felt, after we lost 7-0 to Celtic, there were lessons to be learned from that. They cut through us at will,” said Locke. “You saw last weekend we were far more solid even though we had to defend a wee bit deeper. Celtic didn’t get the space in front of our back four to cause us problems. We shut up shop at Parkhead, but at Tynecastle we need to be a bit more progressive than that.”
After entertaining Kilmarnock this afternoon, Hearts face St Mirren and Hibs away and then Partick Thistle at home in four crucial matches over the festive period.
“We will have to change one or two things, but, if we can get the same type of performance defensively, it gives us a good chance of winning in these games,” continued Locke. “You won’t know for definite [whether Hearts can stay up] after these games, but they are four big matches where we need to try and pick up points. Every game is huge and we don’t have our troubles to seek in terms of injury. We’re at home at Tynecastle for two of these matches so we need are looking for points from them.”