Aaron Hughes believes Friday’s Edinburgh derby is the perfect fixture to help Hearts regain momentum after four games without a win.
The Tynecastle side must recover from the disappointment of Sunday’s Scottish Cup exit at Motherwell, which followed two draws and a defeat in their previous three league matches.
Hughes, the veteran Northern Ireland defender, insists Easter Road is the ideal cauldron to stimulate the Gorgie side.
“We have to keep going. We’ve got a big one coming up on Friday so we’ve got to pick ourselves up very quickly and get up and running again. It’s a good game for us, coming off the back of Sunday,” said the 38-year-old.
“If we get any kind of positive result from Easter Road, it can really pick us back up. Then we can go into the last eight league games really pushing to get as far up the table as we can.”
Hearts sit fifth, nine points behind fourth-placed Hibs in the league table ahead of Friday’s encounter.
“There isn’t an awful lot between the three or four teams around that area,” remarked Hughes. “A couple of results going your way can get you back within touching distance, if not actually leapfrogging someone. There is still plenty to play for.”
The Edinburgh derby atmosphere is one Hughes still relishes despite more than 20 years of football experience at the top level.
“It’s the intensity, the pace of the game, you just feel it for 90 minutes,” he said. “With the noise and everything going on, you don’t really get a chance to settle in the game. No doubt it will be the same on Friday.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play in a couple of these derbies now and, while it’s fast and furious in the game, you look back and enjoy playing in that atmosphere. That intensity is what the game is all about.
“I’d look forward to Friday anyway because it’s a big game, but coming off the back of Sunday it would certainly be nice to get a good result. It would really give us a boost.”
Carl McHugh’s spectacular winner for Motherwell put paid to Hearts’ Scottish Cup hopes in Lanarkshire.
“To be fair, it was a good finish. The boy has put it right in the top corner and our keeper Jon McLaughlin has managed to get a wee bit on it but not enough unfortunately,” recalled Hughes.
“I felt we were well in the game then but it was a fantastic finish to win it. Sometimes you have to hold your hands up. It was worthy of winning a game of that importance.”
Hearts midfielder Ross Callachan’s decision to let a corner bypass him led to Curtis Main’s early opener for Motherwell. “He [Callachan] thought it was going out and he’s misjudged it. On another day, he puts his foot through it or he leaves it and it does go out. Younger boys learn from that and hopefully it won’t happen again.
“It’s a strange one. It’s unfortunate and it’s highlighted a lot in a game like that. What can you do? It happened so early in the game that you just have to try as best you can to say: ‘It’s done, we get on with it. There’s still plenty time to get back into this game.’ I think we did that well. We didn’t really dwell on it.”