And once the dust had settled on Saturday’s Scottish Cup victory over Livingston, where Robbie Neilson’s Hearts side finally advanced after a 0-0 draw, there was one particular name which came into the latter category: Peter Haring.
It’s no disrespect to the Austrian, but a defender-turned-midfielder who is known for his combative qualities and has netted only once all season isn’t typically the type of player whom supporters feel confident about coolly tucking one away. Yet the 28-year-old dispatched the best penalty of the lot. Going second, he smashed the ball into the roof of the net and kept Hearts level at 2-2 before the hosts would eventually go on to win 4-3.
As it turns out, there shouldn’t have been too much to worry about.
“I don’t mind taking penalties. I quite like it, to be honest. I took a few at my previous club so it certainly wasn’t my first one,” he revealed to the Evening News. “I don’t have any problems putting my hand up. I haven’t missed yet, fortunately.”
Haring sported a bandage around his head as he made his way from the field following the post-match celebrations. This was a result of a clash of heads shortly after his introduction as a substitute for Beni Baningime. Thankfully for him, and his team, the injury wasn’t anything serious.
“It’s all good. A bit bruised but it’s fine,” he said. “It didn’t even feel sore. It just wouldn’t stop bleeding next to the eyebrow. The club’s motto [blood doesn’t show on a maroon jersey] was quite suitable on Saturday.”
Haring dropped to the bench for the visit of David Martindale’s side after being part of the starting XI, and indeed playing the full 90, in the ignominious midweek loss to Dundee at Tynecastle. It’s been a bit of a toil for the popular player to remain in the line-up throughout this campaign thanks to the form of Baningime and Cammy Devlin, both of whom were signed this summer. With the former now fit again after recovering from a knee injury, opportunities in the starting XI will now become rarer for the man who filled in impressively over the festive period and, when they do come, he knows it’s imperative he helps his team-mates to victory.
“I know what it’s like when you come into the team after a poor result and then you lose again. You know you’ve maybe not done enough to stay in the team,” he said. “Would I have stayed in the team if we would’ve won? I don’t know. But it’s not so much about me than it is the rest of the team and trying to stay the course, keep our spot in the table and advance in the Scottish Cup.
“I thought I started the season quite well but when the manager brought in some players I had to sit on the bench for quite a while and needed to wait for Beni to get injured to get back into the team. Obviously I wasn’t too happy when I wasn’t getting any game time so it was definitely pleasing for me to get back into the team and to perform well, which I think I did over the period. I did what I could to help the team and hopefully I get a few more games between now and the end of the season.”
Hearts will now travel to St Johnstone looking to put their recent toils behind them. While the Livingston result was a welcomed one at the end of 120 gruelling minutes, it does represent a fourth successive game where Hearts have failed to defeat their opponents in 90 minutes, all while scoring just one goal in that span.
For a seasoned professional like Haring, he knows the key is to keep calm and believe in the collective ability. He looks to get that message across to the younger members of the Tynecastle dressing room as confidence suffers over the recent run.
"I definitely try to take on a bit of extra responsibility as a senior player during these tough runs,” he said. “I’m in my fourth season now so I know what it’s like to be here. Of all the players we brought in during the summer, they came here and it’s only went well. They maybe only know the good part of playing at a club like Hearts.
“When results don’t go your way then things can change quickly here, which is what I’ve experienced myself over the last couple of years. I obviously understand the frustrations when results are not good enough. Our supporters are quite demanding, rightly so, especially when we play at home.
“With results like Dundee, everyone knows they shouldn’t happen but they happen to every club. You just need to keep positive, not get too frustrated and keep doing what we have been doing across the season.”
Of course, no conversation with the Austrian at this moment in time is complete without asking him about his contract situation. His current deal expires in the summer and, as of yet, there has been little news around a possible extension.
“I don’t really know what’s going to happen yet,” he answered. “There’s plenty of time and I’m not in a rush. I’m quite relaxed about the whole thing.
“I’m open to anything, really. If it happens that I stay here then I know what I’ve got playing for Hearts and what a great platform and club it is. So I would never ever rule out staying, but nothing’s happened yet so we’ll just have to wait and see.”