GARY Locke believes Hearts have broken through the zero points barrier because they are finally playing without pressure.
Having seen his team dismissed as relegation certainties, the manager feels his younger players are more relaxed now than at any point so far this season.
Saturday’s 2-1 win at Ross County ensured Hearts have taken four points from their last two league matches following the 3-3 draw with St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park. Goals from Callum Paterson and Scott Robinson secured victory in Dingwall to reward a fine attacking display and move the visitors on to two points in the league table.
When asked to pinpoint the reason for the recent upturn in results, Locke opined that his players are now doing what comes naturally with the pressure off them.
“I think the change has been the pressure being off a wee bit,” he told the Evening News. “A lot of people have written us off, saying Hearts are relegated. Maybe that has helped. The boys have gained a little bit of confidence from their performances and confidence is a massive thing in football. When you don’t have a lot of it, it’s difficult.
“I think the players have taken a lift from the way they’ve played over the last couple of weeks. Getting that result on Saturday certainly helps.”
Hearts remain 19 points adrift at the bottom of the Scottish Premiership, but Locke outlined the mental lift from moving into positive points. “Psychologically, it’s a big thing for a lot of our younger players. We’re absolutely over the moon at moving on to positive points,” he continued.
“I thought the performance on Saturday merited the three points because, in the first half, we had four or five chances and could have been three or four goals up. Ross County got a goal on half-time [through Yann Songo’o] but we showed character in the second half to get the win.
“The longer it goes when you’re on minus points, the more difficult it becomes and we’ve had our fair share of injuries. I’ve seen a bit of confidence coming back over the last two or three games. It’s hard when you’re on a bad run, like we were. Our performances over the last couple of weeks have merited the results we’ve got.”
Locke added that he has been impressed by teenagers Sam Nicholson and Dale Carrick in the last two games and pledged to keep faith with them for St Mirren’s visit to Tynecastle on Wednesday.
“I’ve said all along that, when you get a chance in the team, you’ve got to take it. We are a young team but when you get the opportunity to play in the team, you will stay there if you play well. As long as these guys keep that type of form up, they will play.”