AFTER coasting through pre-season without conceding a goal, Hearts goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald is determined to continue his mean streak when the SPL begins in earnest against St Johnstone.
MacDonald recorded clean sheets in three friendly appearances against Raith Rovers, Dunfermline and Rotherham United last month. Indeed, the only goal Hearts lost during their summer programme was against Falkirk, when reserve keeper Mark Ridgers was granted game time.
St Johnstone visit Tynecastle on Saturday to open the new SPL campaign and MacDonald stressed he intends to continue the run of clean sheets by performing in competitive matches as he did in friendlies.
“We’ve been quite chuffed with how results have gone, except for the one against Falkirk,” he said. “For myself, it’s three games I’ve played and three clean sheets. I think we deserved to win that (Falkirk) game as well having played quite well. It was disappointing to lose but hopefully we can carry on what we’ve done for the majority of pre-season – win games and keep clean sheets and then we’ll be off to a flyer.
“You want to win every game but especially at the start of the season. You want to get a bit of momentum going and get a few wins early doors. The derby game is straight after it and you’d like to go into that with a win.”
MacDonald has welcomed two newcomers to his defence this summer – teenagers Callum Paterson and Kevin McHattie – and praised their contribution. “It’s obviously different with two young lads coming in, but to be fair the two of them have been absolutely amazing,” he told the Hearts website. “They’ve both worked really hard, they’ve got that enthusiasm about them so it’s not been a problem. We’ve got two experienced centre-halves to keep them right and that makes your job a lot easier.”
Hearts sense a chance to challenge for second place this season with Rangers now playing in the Third Division. That, and the upcoming Europa League play-off tie, are reasons for supporters to be upbeat, according to MacDonald. “With the Rangers situation there are chances for clubs to kick on and challenge Celtic,” he continued. “You need the fans to be there and support us and hopefully they’ll do that, especially after winning the cup last year. Everybody will have a bit of optimism. Last year, playing against Tottenham (in Europe) was a great experience. Obviously the result could’ve been better but these are the games you want to play in. Hopefully we get a good tie and have a chance of progressing this year.”
Meanwhile, Hearts yesterday sold out their entire allocation of tickets for next weekend’s Edinburgh derby at Easter Road. The match has been moved to Sunday, August 12, with a 12.30pm kick-off as it will be broadcast live by Sky Sports. Hearts will not request any further tickets.