Gary Mackay: Top-two finish not out of the question

Robbie Neilson was the target of a bizarre aeroplane message stunt on Saturday. Pic: John Devlin

Robbie Neilson was the target of a bizarre aeroplane message stunt on Saturday. Pic: John Devlin

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Very few things surprise me in football these days, but the sight of a plane flying over Tynecastle with a banner calling for the head of Robbie Neilson was nothing short of ridiculous.

Thankfully, the rest of the Hearts support seem to be similarly affronted by the actions of a mindless minority. I’m pretty sure a man of Robbie’s experience and character won’t be overly perturbed by such an inexplicable stunt. He certainly shouldn’t have any concerns, that’s for sure, because it was totally out of touch with the mood of the majority of the support.

Most of us are just delighted by the prospect of a return to Europe and possibly even gatecrashing one of the top two positions in the league.

To be within ten points of top spot at this stage of the season is a great position to be in, but it also leaves you wondering whether we might just have been able to pick up a few extra points and given ourselves a more realistic chance of finishing in the top two. It’s still not beyond possibility that we could catch Aberdeen or even Celtic and we still have both teams to play twice, so you never know. But the fact we are even able to think in such a manner is something I could never have envisaged so soon after administration.

Saturday’s performance against Partick Thistle wasn’t the most flamboyant we’ve ever produced but to come away with nine points from a possible nine in the space of a week is an excellent feat.

We’re not scoring quite as freely as we have done at other times in the season but that is more than offset by the fact we are not conceding. Alim Ozturk and John Souttar have formed a good partnership in recent games and Liam Smith has come in and done well. It speaks volumes about the depth of quality in our defence that we have coped fine without Callum Paterson in our last couple of games, while Blazej Augustyn, another influential figure this season, has been starting on the bench.

We have a similar strength in depth in midfield and that situation is only going to be improved by the impending arrival of Perry Kitchen.

From a Hearts perspective, there is plenty to be excited about as we enter the business end of the season.