Gary Mackay: Hearts need to follow Pittodrie positives with a home win

Any Hearts supporter knows we came out of the Betfred Cup group stage feeling underwhelmed. Pre-season is about finding your feet but the performances were poor overall.

Wednesday, 7th August 2019, 6:30 am
Steven Naismith wheels away in delight after equalising for Hearts. Picture: SNS Group

Therefore, we didn’t go into the league season with a great deal of confidence. Then the best performance we’ve had so far comes at Aberdeen and you get a boot in the stomach in the last few minutes of the game.

Craig Levein said it was a real sore one and it was. It’s just unfortunate. You have to credit Aberdeen, who maintained a desire to go and win the game after Aaron Hickey was sent off late on. We were very stretched down to ten men. You can’t foresee a challenge that gives away the penalty and then we were exposed down the right flank for the third goal. Ryan Hedges finished it wonderfully, though. From a Hearts perspective you’re totally deflated but sometimes you have to just take your hat off and recognise how the opposition went about their business.

There is a huge importance no matter who you play in your first home league game, but Saturday against Ross County does become a massive game for us. They have had a wonderful pre-season and kicked off their Premiership campaign with a 3-0 win, so they have won every game they’ve played.

Hearts should be a level above the team just promoted from the Championship - and they will be if they produce what they did for the last 30 minutes at Aberdeen. That is a demand that is on the team, with our without Steven Naismith.

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Sunday will have enthused the supporters and that means the team will get really good backing this week. If we hadn’t shown the spirit and desire we did in the second half, plus the quality, then the fans would have been very ill-at-ease going into the Ross County game. We are now seeing a bit of hope from Sunday and it’s up to the players to encourage that with a good, positive performance against a team with huge confidence.

Might we have a new signing? Glenn Whelan would bring another bit of experience, which would probably encourage the development of younger lads around him. He would be a positive influence on the pitch and off it. When I’ve watched Whelan in the past, I’ve always thought: ‘You’re a right team player.’ At this moment in time, that’s what Hearts need - team players to build on after an encouraging performance at Pittodrie. We need team players who are going to be strong.

Have no doubts about it, there is a positive feeling from Sunday’s game and that can be enhanced with a result this week. However, if the worst happens and Ross County go in front at Tynecastle, we will need strong individuals on that pitch.

Hearts supporters would not be particularly happy because we just haven’t seen as much improvement in the league recently as we would have liked.