Gary Mackay: Time for Hearts to puff out chests

Gary Locke celebrates. Picture: SNS
Gary Locke celebrates. Picture: SNS
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What an absolutely wonderful feeling it is to be a Hearts supporter right now. I have to admit, before yesterday’s derby victory I never thought we had a chance of staying up, but if we’re able to keep going like that, we’ll have a fighting chance.

It was important to get the first win out of the way as early as possible, and to do it against our city rivals will do everybody at the club the world of good. It’s an absolutely massive three points, and it was a win that, for the first 20 minutes of the second half, looked unlikely. Hibs had a couple of gilt-edged chances and didn’t take them and we went up the other and capitalised.

It was a moment of real quality that won the game for us with a superb cross from Dylan McGowan and an equally brilliant header by Callum Paterson. After the goal, the spirit that Gary Locke and Billy Brown have generated was crucial to seeing the game out, while the supporters also played a massive part. The backing the team got from the stands when they needed it most was truly superb.

In terms of commitment and desire, we certainly weren’t found wanting. One of the key aspects of the win was the leadership of Jamie Hamill. He was absolutely outstanding, a real shining light. I also thought Kevin McHattie had a great game. I’m absolutely delighted for Lockey. You could see by his reaction at the end of the game what it meant to him.

I only hope we can sustain the feelgood factor that we’ve generated with yesterday’s result. If Lockey can get that spirit out of the players for the rest of the season, then we have a chance of staying up. That spirit I’m talking about was probably typified when we saw Ryan Stevenson trying to soldier on even though he had suffered a serious injury. That’s the type of commitment we’re going to need going forward.

Can we sustain what we did yesterday? I really hope so, but I still have grave concerns that the lack of numbers in the squad will ultimately end up costing us. You only have to look at Stevenson getting a bad injury so early in the season to see that that side of things is going to be a major danger to our hopes of surviving in the top flight. Given our lack of experience, losing Ryan is a huge blow. This isn’t a time for dwelling on negatives, though. As Hearts fans, we’ve not had much reason for cheer this summer, so everyone should focus on the positives of what was a truly brilliant day for the football club. 
I look at the league table and see that Ross County, Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Dundee United and Hibs are all still to get a win under their belts, so automatically they are the teams we have to target first and foremost. If we can beat Partick on Friday, we will also have made ground on them, so there is reason for optimism that we can at least start to make other teams look over their shoulders.

Friday’s trip to Firhill will be a really difficult one, though. Nobody could have envisaged that they’d go up to Ross County and win comfortably, but they have shown their intentions early on. It’s now up to us to go and try to build on yesterday’s win. The team will probably have the backing of two or three thousand proud and passionate supporters and that can only help. If the atmosphere at Tynecastle was anything to go by, that siege mentality certainly seems to have kicked in among the Hearts fans.

After all that we’ve gone through lately, it’s just nice, as supporters, to be able to puff out our chests with pride at what our team has done on the park.