GARY LOCKE stressed today that Hearts will enter the Edinburgh derby with their heads held high regardless of whether city rivals Hibs can relegate them.
Last night’s defeat by Dundee United means that, depending on results elsewhere, the derby could be the game in which Hearts’ descent into the Championship is confirmed.
That scenario depends heavily on second-bottom St Mirren’s results between now and then. They are 21 points ahead of Hearts, who only have 24 left to play for. Ross County and Partick Thistle are 23 ahead in the league table. The Paisley club meet Celtic today, St Johnstone on Tuesday and Inverness next Saturday before Hearts and Hibs meet at Tynecastle next Sunday. Should St Mirren take three points or less in those three matches, Hibs will be able to send Hearts down in the derby. County and Thistle’s results would then be rendered academic. Locke insisted his players owe their fans a performance against Hibs, no matter whether it can seal their fate or not. “I’m not naive enough or stupid enough to think this wasn’t going to happen. Due to the youthfulness of the squad and the 15-point deduction, this was always going to happen,” said the manager. “All the other teams have to win so we’ll wait and see what happens. We’ll go into the derby with our heads held high.
“You see the supporters that were here. It’s important we put a performance in for them.
“Nobody needs to tell me the importance of an Edinburgh derby, no matter what is at stake. If they can relegate us it adds a wee bit to the fire but it’s important we get a result for our supporters.”
On a more positive note, Locke welcome the news revealed by the Evening News on Thursday that a creditors meeting in Lithuania next week could help Hearts exit administration.
“I think that’s great news because that’s the biggest battle we’ve faced this season. We’re all praying everything goes well,” he added.
Jackie McNamara, the Dundee United manager, was delighted with his side’s 2-1 victory last night. However, he also cursed his players’ profligacy, admitting they could have finished the match earlier.
As it was, Brian Graham and Nadir Ciftci scored the vital goals, with Danny Wilson heading a consolation for Hearts.
“We had enough chances to finish it earlier but I’m just happy we got the three points,” said McNamara.
“I didn’t think there was anything to worry about in the first half and, in the second, we had chances to kill the game.
“The first goal was a good move, a good reverse pass from Ryan Dow and a good ball across for Brian Graham to score.
“The second goal was more individual from Nadir and it was a great finish.”