Gary Mackay: Young Hearts defence is performing so well

John Souttar, left, and Alim Ozturk have been rock-solid at the heart of the Jambos' defence. Pic: SNS
John Souttar, left, and Alim Ozturk have been rock-solid at the heart of the Jambos' defence. Pic: SNS
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Another positive result for Hearts on Saturday, and it was all the more impressive because it came away from home and at Dens Park, which hasn’t always been a happy hunting ground for us.

The fact we kept a fourth clean sheet in a row with a very young defence was another welcome bonus. I believe that sometimes managers often fall into partnerships or combinations by accident more than design, and I think we’re seeing that at the moment with regard to our backline. Considering it wasn’t so long ago that our defence was made up of Callum Paterson, Igor Rossi, Blazej Augustyn and Juwon Oshaniwa, I’m not sure anyone could have predicted that we’d have such success with Alim Ozturk, who is only 23 himself, alongside three teenagers. They’re doing superbly well and they all deserve to hold on to their jerseys as long as they continue in this vein of form.

After some underwhelming performances of late, it was pleasing to see us turn on the style in parts of the game. I think the fact we played so well is largely down to both Jamie Walker and Sam Nicholson being in the starting line-up. For me, we are a much better team when both of those talented young wingers start, but we haven’t been able to field them together as much as we would have liked, largely because of Walker’s 
injury problems.

No disrespect to anyone else in the Hearts squad, but when those two are starting, I always feel we’ll cause the opposition problems. If one, or both, of them are missing, our opponents will automatically get a lift as it means they will be in for a slightly easier game. If we are able to play them both, it really signals our intent as an attacking force.

I think it’s safe to say the negativity that followed the Scottish Cup defeat by Hibs has now been banished. We’ve responded magnificently to that setback last month and restored optimism levels among the support for the remainder of the season. With a winnable home game coming up against St Johnstone, it would be wonderful if we could maintain our form going into the games against Celtic and Aberdeen, which are likely to give us an idea if we can overhaul either of them.