Craig Levein explains how he will find solution to Hearts’ defensive problems
Craig Levein intends to sort out Hearts’ poor defending on the Riccarton training pitches during the international break. Although under pressure from supporters due to a faulty start this season, the manager stressed there is a solution to the defensive frailties.
Hearts conceded cheap goals in their last two matches, the 3-1 defeat at Celtic Park and Saturday’s 2-2 home draw with Hamilton Academical. Those results leave them joint-bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership with a record of only seven league victories since October 2018.
Levein is confident the slack defending is easily fixable. Neither he nor fans want to see a repeat of the scenes which allowed George Oakley to score twice for Hamilton at the weekend. His plan is to drill defenders in training before Motherwell visit Tynecastle Park on Saturday week.
“There is some consolation there that the defensive side is easier to fix than the attacking side,” said Levein. “At least I can do something about that and take my frustration out on the training ground. I think we have players who are more than capable of climbing the league table.
“We’ll get time to do some work on the training ground and I feel good about that. Sometimes when you have a problem, having an easy solution to it makes you feel much better than scratching your head. We can do lots of work.
“Even when you’re under pressure the defending to me is still the easier thing to sort. It’s much easier to defend than attack. Essentially it was our defending that let us down.
“Scoring two goals at home should be enough to win the game. We just didn’t do the basics properly against Hamilton. It was similar to the Ross County game where we let their strikers get more touches on the ball than they needed to.”
Hearts twice took the lead through Sean Clare and Christophe Berra at the weekend, only for Oakley to equalise both times. His first goal was a mix-up involving Berra and Aidy White and the second came as a result of players sitting off as Hamilton attacked.
“We continually didn’t do the things we normally do well, which is making first contact on the ball when it comes forward early,” said Levein. “On the other side of that I thought Andy Irving had another really good match. Glenn Whelan was good and we controlled the midfield in the first half in particular.
“We had some good moments of play but we’re going to need to have a lot of good moments on play going forward if we defend like that. To play here is not easy. Every time we sign a player we talk about the stadium, when things are going well it’s fantastic but when things aren’t going well it’s very difficult to rise above and shine when other people are feeling a bit nervous.”
The Motherwell match begins a crucial run of three games for Hearts, with Hibs at Easter Road to follow before Aberdeen at home in the Betfred Cup quarter-final. The two league games are the priority right now.
“We’ll be doing our utmost in the games coming up and I sense that the supporters are just as frustrated, if not more so than I am,” said Levein. But I think we’re good enough to go into both of those games feeling confident we can win. Certainly I am, that’s for sure.
“We need to do more work on the training ground with regards to keeping the ball out of the net. If we can defend better then confidence will come, I’m sure of that.”