What could have been a great week has ended up being a really good week. It’s just a shame we weren’t able to hang on a few seconds longer up in Dingwall.
That would really have been the icing on the cake if we could have collected what would have been a momentous three points against an in-form Ross County at the end of a really demanding week for our young team.
Even though the late equaliser was a bit of a sickener for Hearts, there’s certainly a lot more reason for optimism around the team now than there was just a few weeks ago. You can see that the team is almost being shaped with a view towards next season, with the young boys becoming far more prominent and the more experienced players like Darren Barr, Andrew Driver and John Sutton all finding themselves on the bench. It’s been a real eye-opener for everyone in terms of the type of squad we’ll have next season, but certainly, as far as first impressions go, it’s looking promising for the future.
I’ve not made any secret about the fact I’ve been wary of throwing the youngsters into the team en masse, but you can see by the results we’ve had that they’ve done better than I envisaged. John McGlynn deserves credit for the way he’s handled them – he didn’t throw them all in at once at the start of the season. Instead he waited until he felt it was the right time and then threw a glut of them in last week for the semi-final and it’s paid off handsomely over the past week and a bit. I’m delighted with how things have gone and I just hope it can continue in a similar manner.
The last week or so has given everyone connected with Hearts a real lift – reaching a cup final and taking four points from two league games with such a young team is highly impressive. The only fly in the ointment was the loss of such a late goal against Ross County. It just showed the fickle nature of football and the fine margins that games can hinge on. On Wednesday night, the manager made two vital changes in the match in bringing on Arvydas Novikovas and John Sutton to help us get a late winner against a Dundee side who, I have to say, looked one of the worst SPL teams I’ve seen for a long time. Then on Saturday, John made three late substitutions in an effort, I would guess, to try and run down the clock. Unfortunately, this time it was Hearts who were on the end of late anguish as County got their equaliser.
We now head to Tannadice looking to continue our good form against a Dundee United side who, with a very similar record to ourselves in the league so far, will feel they’ve underachieved this season. We’ll go there in good fettle after our recent form but it will be a really difficult game because United certainly looked on Saturday as if they’ve got a real lift from the arrival of a new manager in Jackie McNamara. They also have a fair degree of experience in their team in relation to ourselves.
You look at the league positions and we’re level with United, two behind Aberdeen, four behind Hibs with a game in hand and only seven points off second. Yet by the same token we’re only two points off second bottom, which shows how tight the SPL is at the moment. If we could just get back-to-back wins in the league, it really could catapult us up the table because everybody’s cutting each other’s throats at the moment.