GARY LOCKE today applauded Jamie Walker’s resilience after his late equaliser against Partick Thistle – whilst warning Hearts’ youngsters that they must quickly learn the ruthless nature of senior football.
Walker fouled John Baird for the penalty which gave Thistle the lead five minutes from the end of last night’s encounter, but responded with a majestic equaliser moments later. The 1-1 draw in Glasgow saw Hearts reduce their deficit at the foot of the Scottish Premiership to 11 points before the rest of the weekend fixtures.
Locke acknowledged that lapses in concentration are to be expected from his young squad but cautioned that their learning curve must be sharp if they are to keep Hearts in the top flight this season.
“We are going to make mistakes,” he said. “We made one at the goal when we switched off for a wee bit, but we responded in the right way and that’s the pleasing thing for me. The result gives us a wee bit of momentum now. We’ve won one and drawn one away from home, now we try to go and pick up points against Aberdeen.
“We’ll go over it in video analysis, but we’ve told the players you have to switch on at first-team level all the time. You can’t afford to switch off at any point and that’s what we did at the corner and we were punished for it. The positive thing was the reaction after the goal.
“Jamie scores an absolutely wonderful goal, one we see him scoring pretty regularly at training. He’s now done it a couple of times in the first team and hopefully he can add a few more. He’s a fantastic lad. As with all young players at the club, we’re going to have to tolerate wee errors here and there. It’s important they learn from their errors.”
Locke is eager to harness the battling qualities his players produced in the second half against Thistle. “If we showed the kind of spirit and battling qualities that we did against Hibs for 90 minutes, and for 45 minutes last night, then we have a chance of surviving. You can’t go playing the first half the way we did. We didn’t get close enough to Thistle and when we got the ball we just gave it back to them.
“In the second half I thought the players were fantastic and their performance after the break was worthy of getting us back in the game. Firhill is a difficult place to go, Partick are flying and playing with a lot of confidence. To lose a goal so late in the game and to come back and get an equaliser just shows the commitment and the willingness of our players to fight for the cause.
“If we get that throughout the season then we know we can pick up points. This point means everything. Every point we pick up is going to be crucial as the season goes on. With five minutes to go last night, it looked like we weren’t getting anything from the game and then we go and get a great equaliser.
“Everybody on the bench and all the backroom staff are all in this together. To get a late goal and a late equaliser means everything to everyone. You could see by the reaction from the fans, the players and from the dugout when Jamie scored that we’re all very much in this together. We need to keep digging into this 15-point deduction.”