Gary Mackay: Hearts face tests of character in league

Raith's Ross Callachan, left, and Jordan Thompson challenge Hearts' Perry Kitchen

Raith's Ross Callachan, left, and Jordan Thompson challenge Hearts' Perry Kitchen

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At half-time yesterday, I was convinced Hearts were heading for the fifth round of the Scottish Cup as they were well on top and looked in full control.

However, we lost our way in the second half and Raith Rovers ended up deserving a replay for the way they played after the break.

I’m not massively concerned about the way things unravelled for us because we had four debutants playing, so the team is likely to need time to gel properly.

The main thing is that we are still in the cup, and, as disappointing a result as yesterday was, I’m still confident we’ll win the replay, especially now that we have the mouthwatering incentive of another showdown with our Edinburgh rivals.

We now face a test of character on Sunday when we resume our league campaign away to Celtic.

It will be a formidable test because they’ve not lost a domestic game all season, but we shouldn’t be daunted by that – we should view it as a challenge. Although there is a clear gulf between the two teams at the moment, Hearts should never fear a game against Scottish opposition. It’ll be a really tough game, but there’s plenty experience in this Hearts team, so, if all our players are right at it from the first whistle, I’d like to think we can go and get some kind of result.

We had a couple of decent performances at Parkhead last season, and we should be going there thinking ‘if we can get a result here, it could really reignite our league campaign’. Having said that, for all that it would be delightful if we could come away with a result, the two games immediately after that – against Rangers and Motherwell – are even more critical because they are two in which we’ve got to be looking at taking a good haul of points from if we’re to breathe some life back into our league campaign.

There have been a lot of changes within the squad over the past few weeks, and when you have such a turnover of players in such a short period, there’s never any guarantee it will pay off, certainly in the short term. We’ve signed players with decent pedigree, however, and there were some promising signs from them yesterday, particularly in the first half, so we just have to hope everything clicks quite quickly.

As I wrote last week, we’re very short in the attacking area, especially now that Robbie Muirhead has left for MK Dons. Yesterday’s match just reinforced that belief, so I’m sure we’ll see at least one more forward player in before the window closes.