Gary Mackay: Absence of Alim Ozturk hurt Hearts

Hearts were out-of-sorts against St Johnstone. Pic: SNS
Hearts were out-of-sorts against St Johnstone. Pic: SNS
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Saturday was a day to forget for Hearts, and it’s unfortunate that after going on a four-game winning run, we now go into a two-week break on the back of a horrible home defeat.

It was all the more frustrating because we missed a chance to close the gap on Aberdeen.

There were a few factors in why it went so wrong for us. The obvious starting point is losing Alim Ozturk to injury. We had looked rock solid in our last four games, with our captain at the heart of it, so it was unfortunate that he was missing.

That’s meant as no disrespect to Blazej Augustyn, but ideally when you’re on a run of clean sheets, you don’t want to be changing your backline as it risks upsetting things. Losing Don Cowie early on didn’t help us either.

I also felt we missed the flair of Sam Nicholson to help get us on the front foot. I wrote last week that I feel we are at our best whenever Jamie Walker and Nicholson are both in the team, so I was a bit perplexed that the latter didn’t start the game.

It may have been that the management felt they needed the extra physicality of Abiola Dauda and Juanma up against a St Johnstone side who can handle themselves, but, unless Nicholson was 
carrying a knock, I would certainly have had him in the team. We’re a better-balanced and more dangerous team when he and Walker are both on the pitch.

For all of Hearts’ faults on Saturday, though, it would be churlish not to acknowledge that St Johnstone played very well. They’re an established top-six team in the Premiership, so they’re never going to be easy to beat, and the way they went about their business at Tynecastle was very impressive. On the day, they looked more up for it than we did.

We’ve got a hard game to come back to, away to Celtic, but it’s one we’re more than capable of taking something from if we apply ourselves in a better manner than we did on Saturday. I hope we go with the mobility of Walker and Nicholson because they would be liable to cause Celtic problems. I’m not convinced Juanma and Dauda would be a partnership worth starting with at Parkhead.