Gary Mackay: Hearts must use players wisely ahead of Scottish Cup final
Seeing younger players impress in an Edinburgh derby was an added bonus from the weekend.
Using the youth as leverage in case things didn’t go right, it was at least possible to say Hearts were trying things and giving young players an opportunity.
Putting a boy as young as 17-year-old Connor Smith into a derby was a brave decision, and Harry Cochrane did really well before he ran out of legs, which was to be expected given he hasn’t played a lot of first-team games this season. These players will be better now having had that experience.
I think both Smith and Cochrane will stay in the squad, although you can run on adrenaline in an Edinburgh derby. It can be more difficult in other, maybe less high-profile, fixtures. Will they start against Kilmarnock on Saturday? I’m not sure.
No disrespect to the lad Smith but I don’t think he would be a starter in the Scottish Cup final so we need to wait and see how he is used between now and then. Cochrane could start in the final so it’s how you manage him now after he has been out for a long period of time.
As a young professional, he just goes out and bursts himself and then holds his hands up when he can’t give any more. That is to be respected. he ran himself into the ground against Hibs and then it was clear he couldn’t do it any more having been out for such a long time with injury. I could see him being managed towards the cup final.
Bulding up to that game at Hampden, you obviously have to be protective of people but you also need to be thinking about the cup final.
Scoring the equaliser late on and completing that fightback shows that there is a togetherness in the squad. You don’t come back in a derby if that fighting spirit isn’t there. Uche Ikpeazu summed it up with his celebration and, as a collective, you have to try and build on that.
I do still concern myself a little about the amount of personnel changes between games. Yes, that’s what happens when you aren’t winning games consistently. I suppose, if it works out that after all these changes we pick an 11 for the cup final and we win the cup then I’ll be made to eat my words. So let’s hope I eat my words.
Ryan Edwards is now back in the frame and did himself no harm. Sometimes when players come from a provincial club like Partick Thistle to a club like Hearts, they don’t realise the step up. He did okay when he came on at Easter Road so let’s hope he can push anyone who might think his name is already on the cup final teamsheet.
Kilmarnock are in good shape for Tynecastle on Saturday. They went to Celtic Park and had a real go. They are quite different to Hearts in that they are playing for loads in the league and are trying to qualify for Europe. Finishing fourth would be good enough for a Europa League qualifying place if Celtic win both the title and Scottish Cup, and Kilmarnock are fourth at the moment.
Hibs are chasing them to an extend, whereas Hearts realistically are not. Maybe that will be a positive this weekend. Maybe the pressure will be off us slightly and we can go out and play in an open, fluid way to cause them problems. That can maybe help us break a disappointing run of results in the league.