Ian Cathro insists Hearts must draw on the positive aspects of their performance against Celtic yesterday as they bid to revive their Europa League bid in Wednesday’s crucial showdown with St Johnstone in Perth.
The fifth-placed Edinburgh side endured a chastening afternoon at Tynecastle as Brendan Rodgers’ team secured their sixth Premiership title in succession with a 5-0 victory.
However, Cathro is adamant that the scoreline was an inaccurate reflection of a match in which Hearts started strongly before succumbing to their worst home league defeat since losing 7-0 to Hibs in 1973. The head coach believes his side showed enough purpose in the first half to be encouraged about their chances of defeating Saints – who currently head them by two points – and climbing back into fourth place before hosting Dundee on Saturday.
“We spoke before the game about how this was the first of a three-game week that is very important to us,” said Cathro. “What’s important for me to put across just now is that, after this game, I feel even better and stronger and more confident going into Wednesday’s game than the reverse.
“Throughout the first half, I felt we went toe to toe and made it a competitive game between two teams that were strong against each other. We probably had the most chances in the first half but they’ve got some very good individuals of a high level and they step up. The game, of course, was impacted by that. We continued to fight, though, and the scoreline no way reflects the majority of the game.
“Often people try to create the idea that one game will have an impact on the next one – it doesn’t. We’re very much looking forward to Wednesday’s game. We’re against an opponent who have jumped ahead of us in the league and we need to rectify that.”
Two high-calibre goals in three minutes from Celtic attacker Scott Sinclair midway through the first half appeared to take the sting out of a Hearts challenge which had been strong in the early exchanges. A couple of excellent strikes after the break from Stuart Armstrong and Patrick Roberts and a hat-trick-completing penalty from Sinclair meant the hosts ultimately finished with a heavy beating. Cathro felt the main difference between the sides was the quality of the finishing.
“We’re pleased that the way we wanted to approach the game was there to see,” said Cathro, whose side have now lost five of their last six games. “It was a strong performance and a balanced game in the first half but we need to take those opportunities when they come along. That’s the reality of these games.
“I think we maintained a strong performance for a lot of the game but, of course, there were some individual mistakes which, particularly against opponents of this level, you can’t get away with. As the scoreline increases, the game becomes more difficult because you have to commit more and so on, so that’s the reason I stand by that the scoreline wasn’t an accurate reflection.”