HEARTS boss Gary Locke admitted today that there would be no better way to thank the supporters who have backed their club unconditionally this season than to knock city rivals Hibs out of the League Cup.
Locke was disappointed to see his side lose out to Kilmarnock at Rugby Park at the weekend, but feels that the quarter-final clash with the Hibees on Wednesday night is the ideal game for his side to bounce back.
The two Edinburgh sides square up to one another at Easter Road and Locke feels that a victory could provide a springboard for his side to restore their fortunes in this troubled season.
After a decent start to the campaign, their form has slipped away in recent weeks and the club are back to square one in terms of the league table, where they find themselves 15 points behind second-bottom St Mirren.
Locke conceded: “I would love to give the fans something back now. I get frustrated just like they do and it is even more difficult because we are making silly errors which are costing us.
“There is no better game to bounce back in than a derby. For me, it is probably the best game that we could have, coming off the back of a disappointing defeat like that.”
Locke was left frustrated by the way his side conceded their two goals to Kris Boyd on Saturday and urged his side to finally learn their lesson.
The cup clash with Hibs is followed by a crucial home game against St Johnstone, then an away trip to Aberdeen, both in the League, and the results of that trio of matches will be key for Hearts.
Locke continued: “The goals that we gave away against Kilmarnock were so cheap it wasn’t true. We can’t keep making mistakes like that and it is so important that we start to learn from that.
“We showed earlier in the season what we are capable of. Our confidence is a bit low because of the way that things have been going but the only way that we can get out of the sitaution we are in right now is by digging in and making it as difficult as possible as we can for the opposition – and that is one area we probably let ourselves down in on Saturday.”
Meanwhile, Hearts were today waiting to find out the extent of the injury suffered by Ryan Stevenson in Saturday’s loss at Rugby Park.
Stevenson had to limp off with just 20 minutes gone in Ayrshire after hurting the same knee which kept him out of action earlier in the season.
Initial signs are that the player, one of the most experienced available to Locke, could well be sidelined for another lengthy spell and the Hearts boss conceded that losing the 29-year-old for any period of time would be a huge blow, adding: “We need all of our experienced players.
“He started the game against Kilmarnock well, looked sharp and was starting to cause them a few problems.
“It will be a blow if we do lose him, obviously, but that is the way things seem to be going this season and we can’t let it affect us.”