Jon McLaughlin is intent on banishing his error against Partick Thistle by ensuring he starts earning Hearts points instead of costing them.
While some players may have preferred to hide away after such a high-profile mistake, the goalkeeper fronted up to accept full responsibility for his lapse in an interview with the Evening News. To his credit, the recently-recruited 30-year-old made no attempt to absolve himself of any blame after Blair Spittal’s tame shot squirmed through his hands and legs far too easily in the 19th minute, leaving his team 1-0 down and up against it away from home.
“I was obviously massively disappointed with the manner of the first goal because that put us on the back foot in a game where we should have been really pressing on them,” McLaughlin said. “It was just an error of judgment, basically – a very simple mistake. Sometimes the easier they are to save, the more casual you are with it. He had cut inside before that and I thought he was going to hit one of the corners, but then he fired it straight between my legs and you relax a bit and feel relieved that he’s hit a poor shot. I took my eye off it and it slipped straight through, so it was very disappointing. That’s the problem as a goalkeeper – sometimes a lapse of concentration can cause you to switch off and you make a big mistake when you have the easiest shot to save.”
McLaughlin responded positively to his mistake, and went on to handle everything else that came his way, although the former Burton Albion goalkeeper admitted it was a test of character to pull himself together. “It’s difficult to get it out of your head and focus again,” he explained. “The older you get and the more mistakes you make, you learn that it doesn’t help to ponder on it too much. You’ve just got to try as best you can to put it out your head. But it’s not easy. Once you’ve made a mistake, it’s not about feeling bad for yourself or feeling the pressure of the crowd – it’s more a case of feeling bad for your team-mates, who had been out there working their socks off on Saturday.
“I know what it’s like when other players have made errors. You know they didn’t mean to do it, so as a team-mate, you’re always supportive. When it’s you who makes the mistake, you feel like you’ve let everyone down. The lads have all been very supportive. I know that they’ve got my back, and vice versa. If a mistake like mine costs the lads, that’s when it really hurts, so I was so relieved that they at least got the point they deserved. Hopefully I can put it right in future games and make sure I’m earning the team points instead of taking points away.”
McLaughlin admits he was mightily relieved when Ross Callachan’s 80th-minute header was deemed to have crossed the line, although he would have felt a whole lot better about things if his team had been able to go on and grab the winner he felt their play merited. “When you concede a goal like I did, it’s difficult for the lads to then drag it back in,” he said. “Luckily for me, they did me a massive favour. They really plugged away, especially in the second half. The first half was tough for us. Partick got a lot of confidence from taking the lead and they looked a good side in the first half. They were creating a lot. But in the second half we were pretty dominant and scored a great goal. A point was the least the lads deserved.
“It was open towards the end of the game. We were obviously very keen to get there three points after getting the equaliser and were on top at that stage. But equally they hadn’t given up on the win themselves. While they were 1-0 up, they were more defensive and camped in, but after it went 1-1, they looked to hit us on the counter. There were a few opportunities at both ends towards the end but I could sense us getting a winner. We were really pressing them in towards the end and we looked the more likely side. On another day, we wouldn’t have conceded that goal and we’d have gone home with a 1-0 win.”
McLaughlin’s introduction to the Hearts starting line-up after joining at the end of August has coincided with Hearts embarking on a three-game unbeaten run under new manager Craig Levein. The ex-Burton player has been heartened by the way his team have performed and believes they could easily have taken nine points instead of five from their matches against Aberdeen, Hamilton Accies and Partick. “If you’re drawing games, it’s always very encouraging when you’re talking afterwards about how you really should have won,” he said. “That was the case at Partick and the Aberdeen game was the same. We’ve won one and drawn the two games either side of it so we’re unbeaten, but on the balance of play, we know we could have had three wins from those games. It’s fine margins. If we can cut out the mistakes and get a bit more luck at the other end, I’m sure the results will start turning our way.”
Hearts sit just a point outside the top six despite being handicapped by playing all of their early matches away from Tynecastle. McLaughlin has been impressed by the attitude of his new team while facing such a rigorous run of fixtures and is optimistic about their prospects of making their presence felt at the top end of the Premiership once they get the benefit of home comforts from November onwards. “It’s a battling team who work really hard but we’ve got real talent all over the pitch as well,” he said. “There’s a really good mixture in this team and the longer everyone works together, the better we’ll get. It’s difficult when you’re away from home every single week and then even when you do have a home game, it’s not at your home ground. If we can really dig in during this period of away games and keep ourselves within touching distance, it’ll put us in a really good position when it flips and we’re playing loads of home games in quick succession. It’s a testing time, but hopefully we can keep going and get a few more good results before we get back to Tynecastle.”