Gary Mackay: Zdenek Zlamal looks like Hearts’ latest classy keeper

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Football is a results business and the Hearts supporters will always come out in significant numbers when things are going well.

This loyal group of fans just want to be enthused, and right now that’s exactly what’s happening. The sight of 5000 Jambos at Dunfermline is a clear sign that things are going well. Results over the previous 18 months had been extremely frustrating but now that we’re coming towards the end of August still unbeaten, top of the Premiership and in the quarter-finals of the Betfred Cup, the fans are responding in typically enthusiastic fashion.

Zdenek Zlamal made an important save from Aidan Connolly in the closing stages at East End Park

Zdenek Zlamal made an important save from Aidan Connolly in the closing stages at East End Park

They can be a demanding bunch, and aren’t slow to let players and management know when things aren’t going well, but the flip side of that pressure of playing for Hearts is that, when things are going well and the supporters are upbeat and excited, they can help the team through tight games like Saturday’s at Dunfermline.

It obviously wasn’t a vintage performance by any stretch but in cup football the only thing that matters is progressing to the next round. We had to battle hard, ride our luck at times and rely on our new goalkeeper, who looks like a really good find by the management.

It doesn’t matter what club it is, having a reliable keeper is a crucial thing. But particularly from a Hearts supporter’s perspective, we’ve been fortunate to have a regular flow of quality goalies throughout the years and decades. It’s been the one position we always seem to have been really well served in, through good and bad times.

Even when I was watching a struggling Hearts team as a younger supporter, we had an excellent goalkeeper in Jim Cruickshank. That trend has continued right through, with the likes of Antti Niemi, Gilles Rousset, Craig Gordon, Jamie MacDonald and Jon McLaughlin more recently. It’s really important to both supporters and defenders to have a keeper they trust and early signs are that Zdenek Zlamal is capable of proving an able successor to McLaughlin. He looks very confident, he’s able to vary it in terms of his distribution and, particularly from seeing the way he carried himself against Celtic last weekend, he looks comfortable playing in front of the Hearts supporters, which is a massive thing. In addition to that, he showed on Saturday that he is also a brilliant shot-stopper.