Ian Cathro pinpointed the loss of Prince Buaben to injury as a pivotal moment after Hearts lost their way badly amid a rancorous atmosphere in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Partick Thistle.
The home players were jeered off at full-time as the new head coach endured a Tynecastle debut to forget against the Premiership’s bottom-placed team.
Hearts were marginally on top in a low-key first half and led at the break through Bjorn Johnsen’s goal, with midfielder Buaben playing a crucial role in helping his team retain possession and maintain the upper hand.
However, the Ghanaian picked up a calf problem towards the end of the half and was replaced by striker Conor Sammon for the start of the second half. The substitution coincided with Hearts swiftly conceding an equaliser, scored by Sean Welsh, and subsequently falling out of the game, to the extent that they were widely deemed fortunate to escape with a point.
“Prince going off changed things,” Cathro said. “It created a situation where the team had to change and play a different way, which probably allowed Partick to be more competitive against us. The game reached a point where it became a bit broken.”
Buaben has been a peripheral figure so far this season, with Saturday’s game representing only his fourth league start. However, the 28-year-old looked perfectly suited to Cathro’s possession-based approach and was one his team’s best players before he went off. The head coach is hopeful the injury will not prevent Buaben from participating against Dundee at Dens Park on Friday night.
“It was a calf issue but we’ll need to wait and see how it is,” said Cathro. “He’ll be scanned and we’ll assess what it is. I’ve been here for ten days and Prince has trained well and shown his qualities.
“He’s got qualities that will help the team, which is why he played on Saturday.
“He has good rhythm and good technical quality to allow the team to start playing.”
Meanwhile, Jack Hamilton, who made three excellent second-half saves to keep Hearts level, admits Saturday’s result, which left his team seven points adrift of second-placed Rangers, was not good enough.
“We should be capitalising on these games,” said the goalkeeper. “These are the games we need to win if we want to do anything in the league. We’ve got a good dressing-room and all the boys want to win. You can see what it means – our boys aren’t happy with a draw. They’d never be happy with a draw no matter who they’re playing against. We always want to win and we want to finish as high up the table as we can.”
Hamilton was philosophical about the edginess from the stands, insisting supporters at all clubs vent their ire if they’re not happy with what they’re seeing. “It’s hard,” he said. “But it’s part and parcel of football, I suppose. It’s anywhere you go. It’s not like it’s just here. Any club you go to, the fans pay money and want to see you win. It’s our job to win for them, and we never did that.”