Gary Mackay: Experienced players key to strong Hearts finish

Hearts' 3-0 win over Partick restored some optimism amongst home fans
Hearts' 3-0 win over Partick restored some optimism amongst home fans
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In light of the demoralising way the previous few weeks had gone, Saturday’s highly-impressive victory was much-needed in terms of restoring some optimism.

The supporters showed their loyalty once again to turn out in good numbers on such a wintry day at a time when the team hadn’t been playing well and they were rewarded with a very positive performance.

Granted, Partick were very poor but I think a lot of that was down to the fact we started on the front foot and didn’t let them play. I just wish we’d played like that more often this season because we’ve only really seen that level of performance against Celtic and against St Johnstone in the Scottish Cup.

It was notable that the team that started on Saturday had seven full internationalists, plus another two in Marcus Godinho and Jon McLaughlin who have just been given their first call-ups, so there was a huge amount of experience in that team. Perhaps that is the way forward for Hearts at the moment as we try to end the season strongly and ensure the supporters have something to cheer in the remaining seven games.

Thankfully, it looks like we’ve done enough to secure a place in the top six so the focus has to be on trying to get back ahead of Kilmarnock.

The fact we’ve not lost at Tynecastle this season means we should be confident about taking something from all our remaining home games.

We always said when we were playing at Murrayfield earlier in the season that things would be better when we got back to Tynecastle, and in terms of home results, they have because we’ve picked up a lot of points there. It’s our strong home form that’s effectively got us into the top six, but now, if we want to kick on and challenge the teams above us next season, we really have to find a way of playing, and a mentality, that makes us more effective away from home.

Our next test on the road comes at Dundee, and that could be a really sticky game for us because they are scrapping to avoid finishing in the bottom two. In the meantime, I hope Jon McLaughlin makes his Scotland debut in the upcoming double-header. He fully merited his call-up on the back of his excellent form this season.