Without kicking a ball at the weekend, Hearts’ European prospects were enhanced by the fact our two nearest challengers, Ross County and St Johnstone, both lost.
To be 11 points clear in third place at this stage of the season is a fine feat and owes everything to the manner in which we have consistently picked up points regardless of circumstances.
We’ve ground out 0-0 draws with just ten men on a couple of occasions this term, and last Wednesday’s 3-0 win at Ross County further underlined our ability to deal with adversity. With several key players missing, not many people would have fancied Hearts to come away with such an emphatic result just a few days after the hammer blow of losing a two-goal lead against Hibs.
We can now head to Easter Road for tomorrow’s Scottish Cup replay in excellent fettle. Some people have written us off as underdogs after what happened eight days ago, but I certainly don’t view it like that. Yes, Hibs are entitled to fancy their chances given the run of form they have been on since August and the fact they are on home soil. But Hearts are going there with virtually a full-strength squad and having had nearly a week’s rest between games. New players like Don Cowie and Abiola Dauda, who perhaps struggled with the pace of the first game, have had extra time to settle in and they will both benefit from the outing in Dingwall.
The same can be said for Sam Nicholson and Jamie Walker, who stepped up their match fitness levels after recent injuries. The return of Igor Rossi will also make a huge difference. He has been a real find and his air of assurance will be vital in a game like tomorrow’s. Even though we kept a clean sheet in our last game, I think it’s safe to say Rossi will definitely start.
As a Hearts player, I used to relish going to Easter Road. The supporters will go there in buoyant mood and the players should get a real lift from seeing a packed away end. This is a great chance for them to go across the city and show why they are sitting comfortably in third place in the league.
Every one of the Hearts players should go there full of belief that they can beat Hibs and reach the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup.