Craig Levein: Hearts’ focus all on St Johnstone – not derby

Craig Levein believes you can trip yourself up by looking too far ahead
Craig Levein believes you can trip yourself up by looking too far ahead
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Craig Levein is adamant Hearts won’t allow thoughts of next week’s Edinburgh derby to distract them from the task of trying to defeat bogey team St Johnstone on Saturday.

With Hibs in Betfred Cup action this weekend, victory over the Perth side at Murrayfield would lift the Tynecastle side two points clear of their city rivals ahead of Tuesday night’s trip to Easter Road. However, Levein insists that Hearts’ only motivation over the next 48 hours should be to ensure they finally defeat a Saints side they haven’t beaten in their last eight meetings as opposed to gaining any perceived psychological edge over Hibs.

“I’ve not even thought about going ahead of Hibs,” the manager told the Evening News. “We’ve just been concentrating on the St Johnstone game. The way to trip yourself up is by looking too far ahead. All the focus is on Saturday.”

St Johnstone are currently enduring a mini-slump, having lost three of their last four matches. Their last two results have brought back-to-back 3-0 defeats by Aberdeen and Rangers, but Levein won’t be lulled into viewing Tommy Wright’s team – who are two points above Hearts – as a soft touch.

“We’ve not had the greatest of results against St Johnstone in the last few years so that in itself is caution enough for us,” he said. “We’ll be expecting a tough match.”

The visit of Saints represents the second of three home matches that Hearts will play at BT Murrayfield before they return to a redeveloped Tynecastle to face Kilmarnock two weeks on Sunday. Levein is pining to get back to Gorgie, but is heartened by the fact his team, after playing eight of their first nine Premiership games on the road, finally have a reprieve from away games. The manager is hopeful that memories of a strong and spirited display in the goalless draw with Aberdeen at Murrayfield last month will stand his team in good stead against Saints. “We had a good experience in the Aberdeen game so I think that will help,” he said. “Obviously, it’s still not Tynecastle but it will help that it’s not an away match.”