Craig Levein has likened Hearts’ current difficulties to walking in treacle – but promised his players their fortunes will improve.
The manager admitted he feels for his squad after injuries to key players, no wins in seven games and two horrendous refereeing decisions which have cost them vital points in the last two matches.
Alfredo Morelos’ winning goal for Rangers at Tynecastle Park on Sunday stood despite being offside. Then, on Wednesday night, St Johnstone secured a 2-2 draw with Hearts in Perth thanks to a penalty awarded despite no contact between Peter Haring and Liam Gordon.
Levein told the Evening News his players are angry at the ongoing struggles, but said he is convinced they are getting better. He expects their luck to change soon and implored them not to give up the fight ahead of tomorrow’s Ladbrokes Premiership match with Motherwell.
“The players are annoyed. They’re annoyed about Sunday and they’re annoyed about Wednesday night,” explained Levein. “I told them it can be like this at times. Sometimes you feel like you’re walking on nice grass and other times it’s like walking in treacle. We are going through a period where everything is difficult.
“We have to fight for throw-ins, we have to fight for corners, we have to fight for everything. However, we just have to keep going, keep doing it, and I have absolutely no doubt things will improve. Everything seems to be going the wrong way but I feel we are improving.
“There was a platform of sorts from Sunday’s game against Rangers given the effort and we got a little bit of belief from that. If we had got three points at McDiarmid Park then we’d have been off and running. We got something from the game, at least.
“It’s good that we have experienced players who have been through this before and know how tough it is. We had to scrap for everything on Wednesday and I feel for the lads. They are the ones out there having to keep plugging away and plugging away, then something goes against them.”
Referee Andrew Dallas penalised Haring despite television replays showing Gordon jumped and fell without contact from the Austrian.
Matty Kennedy scored the resultant penalty to deny Hearts what would have been their first victory at McDiarmid Park in more than eight years. They had been leading 2-1 after goals by Arnaud Djoum and Oliver Bozanic, with Blair Alston’s first equaliser for St Johnstone sandwiched in between.
“Everybody says goals change games and it’s true,” Levein remarked of the equaliser. “They change the mindset of both teams. The team scoring gets a 25 per cent boost and the opposition get a 25 per cent drop in energy levels. There’s a 50 per cent change in the game from getting a goal.
“I’m really pleased at how we dug in after losing the penalty. I’m delighted with our supporters as well. They travelled up to Perth and really backed us to the hilt. I think they recognise we are trying hard in difficult circumstances.”