Gary Mackay: Home and away differential causing Hearts problems
Hearts can’t afford too many more performances like Saturday’s at Fir Park if they intend to qualify for Europe.
Everyone’s feeling from the weekend was one of disappointment after losing 2-0 to Motherwell. It was a winnable game and Hearts just didn’t do enough to make an impact. We didn’t lay a marker down.
Sometimes Fir Park can be one of the more soulless stadiums but when you have as many of your own supporters there as there are home fans, you hope that’s going to lift you. Unfortunately it didn’t.
If you lose while having a go and creating chances, then supporters can go away in the knowledge that you’ve done some of what is required. Really, we didn’t lay a finger on Motherwell if we are being honest. Players we have hung our hat on since the season began were off the boil.
The last two away performances at Aberdeen and Motherwell have been poor. Because of how well we have done at home, particularly against Dundee United, do we need to be more flexible away from home?
Does it mean we need to change for away grounds and be adaptable? Maybe a formation for home games and one for away games rather than being stuck to one structure for all? That’s a matter for the coaching staff.
Hopefully this Saturday will show the Motherwell game was just a one-off. You don’t want too many of them over the course of the season when you are up there challenging. It makes your job harder when you get to the other side of Christmas and you’re trying to maintain your top-four status.
I think Hearts probably missed Craig Halkett at Fir Park. I mentioned him after the game at St Johnstone relating to his use of the ball but Saturday was a game where he would definitely have been useful. You needed guys who would roll the sleeves up, win headers, win second balls and be really competitive.
That physical presence Halkett gives was missed. He does what you might call the dirty work that others don’t do, without maybe having the same quality that others have in possession of the ball. Let’s hope his injury is very short-term for that reason.
It was certainly a sore defeat for everyone to take. What it does now – and the players will know this, Robbie Neilson will know this and all the coaches will know this – is it just adds a little bit of extra pressure on come this weekend against St Mirren.
Hearts have taken nothing from another away game so sustaining the home form is a must. And it’s no easy task against St Mirren.
From what I have seen of them this season, they are a much-improved side under Jim Goodwin. We will need to be on the button because you won’t get anything for nothing against a Jim Goodwin team. You will need to work for everything you get.
The home form is always a key aspect of the campaign for Hearts and we need to make sure that continues.