Even though they’ve come against part-timers, don’t underestimate the value of the three goals Kyle Lafferty has scored in Hearts’ Betfred Cup wins over Elgin and East Fife.
Every striker is anxious to get off the mark at the earliest possible opportunity and ease any pressure on their shoulders when joining a new club, especially one under the level of expectation of Kyle. He will now feel like he’s starting to get his feet under the table and will be confident of maintaining this form into the campaign.
The same can be said for everyone at Hearts. These games are about bedding the new guys in and rediscovering good habits after a terrible finish to last season. No matter the level of opposition, victories, goals and clean sheets breed confidence.
Obviously we can’t get too carried away because the results have come against teams in League One and League Two, but the early signs are promising, particularly from the performance against East Fife. The display against Elgin wasn’t great but you often find that after a team gets hammered, as they did away to Dunfermline last weekend, they tighten up for their next game. We might find that Peterhead do likewise tomorrow night after also being taken apart by the Pars on Saturday.
This Saturday’s game at home to Dunfermline, who are in good form, will give us a far better idea of what shape we are in because they are the best team in the section outwith ourselves and the only other full-time side. They are likely to give us a decent test ahead of our league opener a week later. I would imagine that, barring any fitness issues, the side that starts on Saturday would be pretty close to the one that starts at Celtic Park, whereas we might see a couple of changes for the long trip tomorrow.
The return of John Souttar was a big boost, and hopefully that’s him back to full fitness and injury-free for the foreseeable future because he can be a big player for us this season. We also have Arnaud Djoum to add to the mix, so we’re looking pretty strong on paper. I’m still hopeful that we’ll see a couple more new faces arrive over the next month or so to ensure we are in the best shape possible.