At times this season, I’ve felt we’ve been guilty of showing too much respect to certain opponents, so I was delighted to see Hearts have a real go at Celtic on Saturday.
We were really impressive in the first half and more than held our own, so it was galling that we ended up 2-1 down at the break. Unfortunately, we just left a few too many gaps, which Celtic, with their attacking quality, were able to exploit.
I think the atmosphere in the stadium had a positive impact on both teams because it was a really good match between two sides who were on their game. Celtic have been unconvincing of late, but their players clearly responded and raised their game because of the big game feel around the match and the knowledge that Hearts are one of the toughest nuts in the country to crack.
They were also aided by some refereeing decisions. I’m regularly baffled by the inconsistencies in Scottish refereeing and we saw examples of that on Saturday. In the context of other tackles in the game that went unpunished, the decision to send off Juwon Oshaniwa was ridiculous. It’s infuriating for the management and for a player who has just forced his way back into the team that he will now miss out against Inverness tomorrow with no right of appeal.
Oshaniwa’s selection raised some eyebrows and it’s fair to say he is one of a few players who have come into the squad whom the jury is still out on. Our former chairman Bobby Parker used to say you have to give a new player six months to adapt to playing for Hearts, and it may be Oshaniwa needs even more time because he’s come from a totally different environment. He was certainly hard done by on Saturday.
The Inverness game will be a tough one for the players. The atmosphere at the Caledonian Stadium will be low key in comparison to what they played in at Celtic Park on Saturday, so it will be a challenge for the management to rouse the team enough to come back with a positive result.
I don’t think second place has gone just yet but we’ll certainly have a clearer picture by Friday night, once we’ve played Inverness and Aberdeen, of whether or not we have a realistic chance of catching the Dons.