Gary Mackay: Hearts receive a reality check

Jamie Walker battles with Aberdeen's Graeme Shinnie
Jamie Walker battles with Aberdeen's Graeme Shinnie
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Yesterday’s defeat was the most disappointing of the three Hearts have suffered over the past few weeks because I think most supporters expected the team to rise to the occasion at a packed-out Tynecastle and give Aberdeen a real test.

In the end, we got a proper reality check against a team who are clearly a good bit further on in their development than we are. The fact we won the first five games raised expectations, but we have now been given a few stark reminders that several players are evidently still adapting to the Scottish Premiership.

Having said that, I think we could have made things a bit easier for ourselves with the way we approached the game. I was bamboozled by the shape of the team in the first half. With Juanma and Gavin Reilly starting out wide, it looked like we were set up to stop Aberdeen playing rather than take the game to them.

Generally, our best attacking play in the last year and a bit has come through our wide players, so it was disappointing that we didn’t have Billy King and Sam Nicholson – or even Jamie Walker, who started centrally – playing in the wide areas and giving Aberdeen something to think about. Unfortunately, it was pretty evident yesterday that one or two were out of position and it had an impact on the team.

If tactical tweaks like that stop the opposition and get you a foothold, people applaud you, but it’s only natural that there will be criticism when the changes result in a performance like yesterday’s first half. Of course, it didn’t help that we were undone by three very avoidable goals, particularly the second one. But that’s the difference between the Premiership and the Championship – you don’t get away with mistakes the way you do in the second tier.

It’s becoming a bit of a concern that we’re losing a lot of goals. We need to find a way of balancing our attacking play with keeping a sound defence.

We now face a test of character at Kilmarnock in the League Cup. We have made lots of changes for cup games in the past, but I hope we play our strongest team on Wednesday, rather than worrying too much about Saturday, because anything we get at Celtic Park is a bonus.