Scott Robinson reckons the regular doses of mental torment Hearts have had to endure this season will make everyone at the club stronger for the future.
The young Tynecastle side were taught yet another harsh lesson in the Scottish Premiership’s school of hard knocks as a two-minute collapse early in the second half cost them two goals and a chance of victory at Kilmarnock on Saturday.
Such demoralising moments, where promising performances have been undermined by occasional lapses or youthful naivety, have come along far too frequently for Robinson’s liking in this ultra-demanding campaign.
However, he feels the pain of learning the hard way will strengthen the resolve of everyone at Hearts in the long term. “We’ve taken plenty mental beatings, that’s for sure,” Robinson told the Evening News. “There have been plenty games that have been hard to take, like conceding the late goal in the League Cup semi-final, and the two goals in three minutes at Kilmarnock.
“At the end of the game you think ‘how did that game pass us by?’ You’ve got to try and get these moments out of your system as quickly as possible. It makes you a stronger character when you have to deal with some of the things we’ve that had to cope with this season.”
Robinson and his colleagues are still trying to come to terms with how they contrived to squander a position of relative comfort at 1-1 before losing 4-2 to Kilmarnock on Saturday.
“I thought we were easily the better team in the first half, apart from that freak own goal [by Danny Wilson], but as a team we’ve got to come out and defend better than we did at the start of the second half,” he admitted. “It was a crazy few minutes and all of a sudden we were 3-1 behind and facing an uphill battle.
“The three goals we lost in the second half were all preventable. We need to have a look at ourselves and try and defend them better. The game was basically over in that three or four minutes. Apart from those few minutes it was an even game.
“At Motherwell [the previous weekend] it was a case of us not turning up at all, but you couldn’t say that about us at the weekend. We fought, we battled and in the first half we were really good but they were always going to come into it at some point. We could have come away with a result if we’d weathered that storm a bit better, because you’re always going to get those periods in games when you come under a bit of pressure.”
Having managed to spark an upturn in results and confidence levels through January and February, Robinson is keen to ensure that the current three-game losing streak isn’t allowed to develop into another lengthy slump like those that blotted the first half of the season. With nine games remaining of their doomed bid to remain in the Scottish Premiership, Robinson feels it is imperative that Hearts don’t allow the optimism that accompanied that impressive five-game unbeaten run in the league to evaporate.
“You can’t get on a run of losing too many matches because confidence gets low and it’s hard to pick up again,” he said. “We can’t keep being inconsistent. We need to get back to the type of form we had where we were hard to beat and defending quite well. Whatever happens, we won’t go down without a fight. It maybe looked like that at Motherwell but I think at Kilmarnock, even though it wasn’t great to lose four goals, we showed that we’ll keep battling away.”
Robinson only turns 22 tomorrow, but, having made his debut as a 16-year-old almost six years ago, he is already considered one of the most experienced players at Hearts. Having had the relative luxury of being introduced gradually into a first team which was top-heavy on senior professionals, he has the utmost sympathy for the academy graduates who have been thrown in at the deep end over the past year or so.
“I was coming off the bench, getting dipped in here and there and took my time to get introduced to the first team, but some of these boys have been thrown right in and had to deal with it,” said Robinson. “It’s hard for them but they’ll learn from it. It’ll be harder for them playing every week than it was for me coming in and out of the team. It would be easier if it was just one or two who were playing regularly because they had shown they were good enough, but to have so many youngsters, it’s very hard.
“They’re looking for experience beside them to help them through and it’s not always there. They’ll learn from it and they’ll become more experienced as a result and I’m sure we’ll get on fine next season. I think everybody will be better off for this experience next season because there’s a lot of talent there. The team is very young but the young boys are getting a lot of experience with all the game time they’re getting this year. They’ll take that on to next season, so it can only benefit them.
“I’m one of the most experienced players at the club, but I still feel young myself – I’m just about to turn 22. I look to help the younger ones as much as I can but I’m still learning myself. I’m always looking to become a better player and I’ll always look to do that no matter what age I am.”