Gary Mackay: Hearts must start to impose themselves on games

Hearts striker Kyle Lafferty is challenged by Dundee's Kevin Holt. Pic: SNS
Hearts striker Kyle Lafferty is challenged by Dundee's Kevin Holt. Pic: SNS
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After the optimism of a couple of weeks ago, Hearts supporters are heading into the international break on a downer following a poor return of one point from two winnable away fixtures against Partick Thistle and Dundee.

Saturday’s game was particularly frustrating since we lost through set-piece goals at the end of each half. With the experience and physicality we have in our ranks, that simply shouldn’t be happening. It wouldn’t have been a disaster to leave Dens Park with a point and continue our mini unbeaten run, but the way we lost was a real blow.

It was a similar game to the one at Partick Thistle the previous week, where we came on quite strong after a slack start. But dominating the second half of games against struggling sides is no good if we’re not coming away with the points. We got away with our slack start to an extent last week because we were able to come back and earn a point at Firhill, but it’s a tough ask to come from behind away from home on a regular basis.

We need to make sure we’re starting games in an aggressive manner, and on the front foot from the first whistle, so we give ourselves a chance of getting ahead and gaining a foothold, like we did at Hamilton a few weeks ago. We need to get ourselves going and take the initiative, and that has to start against Ross County because there’s a gap starting to open between us and the top six.

The fact we’ve been playing away from home hasn’t been easy, and we will benefit from returning to Tynecastle next month, but we’re in danger of overplaying the effect playing away has had on our start to the season. Our recent away games have come against Motherwell, Hamilton, Partick Thistle and Dundee, and we’ve had the backing of more than 2000 supporters in each of those games, so four points from a possible 12 is not a great return. We need a win when we return to action in Dingwall because we should have had more points than we’ve taken from our recent fixtures. County will be buoyed by starting with a victory under their new manager, but they are below us in the table. We have to go there and try and impose ourselves from the start.