Hearts to learn about new squad's character as they try to bounce back from Dunfermline loss

Hearts will learn much about the character of their new-look squad when they play Alloa on Tuesday evening.
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Friday’s defeat at Dunfermline irked manager Robbie Neilson and his players, not least because it squashed their perfect record of eight successive wins since the season commenced.

Hearts spent weeks over the summer assembling a squad they believe is capable not only of winning the Championship, but also thriving in the Premiership next year.

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That looked questionable at East End Park on Friday night. Dunfermline’s tenacity and discipline earned a deserved 2-1 win with goals from Dom Thomas and Euan Murray. Stephen Kingsley scored the visitors’ consolation.

Hearts defender Stephen Kingsley is eager for improvement against Alloa tomorrow.Hearts defender Stephen Kingsley is eager for improvement against Alloa tomorrow.
Hearts defender Stephen Kingsley is eager for improvement against Alloa tomorrow.

The reaction will be keenly watched. Hearts, the overwhelming favourites for automatic promotion, are left third in the table after losing in Fife. Dunfermline lead the pack and are still unbeaten, four points ahead of their Edinburgh rivals.

Hearts have a game in hand, which takes place tomorrow at Tynecastle Park.

"We are favourites. We know that and we accept that pressure but we know we aren’t going to win every week,” said Kingsley, one of eight new signings for this season.

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“There were eight wins on the bounce and that was brilliant but realistically you are going to have some downs.

"It’s very seldom that you get a season as successful as Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic, for example. You are going to have dips and it’s how we react now.

"We have a game on Tuesday so thankfully we don’t have much time to dwell on it. We need to pick ourselves back up.

"There are some positives to take out of Friday’s game. We can see what the mistakes were and clean them up to get ready for Tuesday. Tuesday is massive now.”

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Kingsley and fellow full-back Michael Smith were two of Hearts’ better performance. However, the energy of players like Kyle Turner and Declan McManus underpinned Dunfermline’s success.

Under Stevie Crawford, they are an efficient and well-drilled outfit with no intention of standing aside to allow a Hearts procession back to the top flight.

"We knew what it was going to be like. We knew it would be tough. We had to be at it,” admitted Kingsley.

"I thought we did well in spells and had chances but we didn’t take them. We conceded slack goals against a team that has been scoring regularly. You are fighting an uphill battle after that.

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"We played some good football at times and created chances but didn’t put them away. When you do that, you always give them the opportunity to get into it and get ahead.”

Romanian defender Mihai Popescu struck the crossbar for Hearts in each half, although Dunfermline also had opportunities to win by a greater margin.

"It’s disappointing and difficult to take. We will look back at it and analyse it ourselves to see what went wrong,” said Kingsley.

"We will make sure it’s done and dusted so we’re ready for Tuesday, because that’s when we need to put it right.

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"We will see what happened, what went wrong and what we can improve on. Then we build for Alloa, taking some of the positives and the bits we have to improve on to put it right on Tuesday."

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