Yesterday’s draw against Celtic ended up feeling like a victory to me. I was really encouraged by the fact Hearts had a good go at the champions and also had the spirit to come from behind twice.
We’ve put in some pretty tame performances against them at Tynecastle over the last four years and haven’t had much to celebrate in this fixture of late, but yesterday’s display was far more like it. I wrote last week that Hearts had to have a go at them and try and knock them out of their stride, and I was delighted to see that we did that. For me, the only way to tackle Celtic at Tynecastle is to play with pace and tempo.
Yes, Celtic had good periods of possession in the second half and we were reliant on a late free-kick to earn a draw, but we never gave up and deserved a point for what we put into a really enjoyable game. Even if we had lost 2-1, I think the fans would have gone home in decent spirits because of the fact the team had made a proper fist of it and tried to cause Celtic problems. It was night and day compared to our timid performance in the recent League Cup quarter-final, and the late equaliser was the icing on the cake.
We may be without a win in five games now, but we can take heart from our last two matches, where we have picked up a couple of well-earned points against sides who will probably finish in the top four. We’ve put a massive amount of effort into those games, and Dundee United, although they have been struggling, will be hoping to capitalise on tiredness in the Hearts ranks when they visit Tynecastle on Wednesday.
Make no mistake, the players put in a mammoth shift yesterday and they will have expended a huge amount of energy on a weekend when our next opponents didn’t have a game. United have shown signs of life in recent weeks and I certainly don’t expect it to be a straightforward three points for Hearts this week. It will be hard for the players to rouse themselves after the exertions of yesterday, and there won’t be the same sense of occasion as there was against Celtic, but hopefully we can find a way of getting on the front foot and making sure we end a positive 2015 on a high.