Clevid Dikamona has called on Hearts to produce a strong response to their toughest week of the season so far as they bid to reassert themselves at the top of the Premiership.
The Tynecastle side have gone three games without scoring after Saturday’s 5-0 destruction at Celtic Park followed a 3-0 defeat by Celtic in the Betfred Cup and a goalless home draw with Hibs. Hearts’ advantage at the top of the table, which was as big as six points after their 3-0 win at Dundee a fortnight ago, has been chopped to just a point in light of recent results, but Dikamona is confident his team won’t allow those setbacks to derail them. The centre-back is adamant they can maintain their place at the top of the table long enough to allow some of their key players to return from injury, but insists it is crucial that they return to winning ways on Saturday at home to a Kilmarnock side who have also failed to win in their last three games.
“We have to get back on track against Kilmarnock,” Dikamona told the Evening News. “We are now only one point ahead of Celtic and they have a game in hand but we just have to keep trying to win every game and see where we end up. We have some big players to come back from injury, so we have to keep going. We have an opportunity on Saturday to start winning again.”
Dikamona insists Hearts shouldn’t allow their confidence to be dented by the demoralising 5-0 defeat at Celtic Park on Saturday as the champions notched a sixth consecutive win over domestic opposition. “It’s going to be hard to compete with Celtic and stay at the top but we knew that from the beginning,” said the defender. “Everything is possible though. We just need to work hard to improve from Saturday’s game and to make sure we are focused in every game. We will see at the end what we deserve.
“I think we have the quality to win this championship but we need also to be lucky and unfortunately we have had a lot of injuries. This is not an excuse but it’s difficult when you lose a lot of key players who can show you how to win. When you lose Christophe Berra, John Souttar, Steven Naismith and Uche Ikpeazu, these are key players who make a difference to the team. When the game is difficult, these are the kind of players who can help the team win 1-0. But whoever is on the pitch, if we are all focused and together, and play the way we did against Aberdeen recently, we can win games. We need to stay focused and keep believing in ourselves though.”
Dikamona feels Hearts lacked belief on Saturday. “At the beginning of the game, I don’t think we believed enough to get something from the game,” he said. “In the first half the plan was to have one block and defend and wait for our opportunity to score. I think we did well when we tried to do it in the Cup game against them the week before because the first 45 minutes was good but on Saturday we played without aggression in the first half. When you play without aggression against a team with the quality of Celtic, it’s difficult to avoid conceding goals. In the second half we were more aggressive and were much better but when you are 3-0 down it is difficult to come back.”