'Weight has been lifted from their shoulders': Journalists' predictions for Kilmarnock v Hearts
Our online team try to predict the result as Hearts travel to Kilmarnock in the Ladbrokes Premiership looking for their second successive win under interim boss Austin MacPhee.
Craig Fowler: Hearts may have won 5-2 in their last fixture but there were still troubling aspects of the performance. The defence, for instance, managed to concede twice at home to a team that had only scored five in their other 11 league games combined. And while they were certainly improved in attack, the first half saw perhaps the least convincing three-goal haul a Hearts attack has ever managed. This weekend will provide a much sterner test and tell us a lot about whether Austin MacPhee has any chance of getting himself the manager's job. Killie are one of the stingiest defensive sides in the league, though they do lack a bit of firepower at the other end. Don't be too surprised if this one is settled by a single goal. Prediction: 1-0 Killie
Patrick McPartlin: The 5-2 win over St Mirren will have been a welcome boost for Hearts and interim boss MacPhee but I'd imagine Kilmarnock will be a sterner test - especially at Rugby Park. After a rocky start, Angelo Alessio has managed to recapture at least some of the "Steve Clarke effect" that saw the Ayrshire side reach Europe. The Hearts players are playing as though a weight has been lifted from their shoulders and I think the general air of malaise which filtered down from the stands during the latter stages of Craig Levein's tenure has somewhat dissipated. However, the wrong result tomorrow could result in the mood shifting back again. Killie have their injury concerns - as do Hearts - but the Jambos have a decent record at Rugby Park in recent seasons. I can see this being a keenly-fought battle. Prediction: Score draw
Mark Atkinson: Hmmm. Really, really not sure here. I've been quite impressed by Killie recently under Angelo Alessio. Okay, it's not quite catenaccio, but I admire the way they try to keep the ball, play patiently and wait for opportunities to arise. Goals seem to be their overriding issue, as Eamonn Brophy has not been as prolific as last term and they don't create bundles of chances. Hearts head here in better shape, and with Steven Naismith getting back to his optimum level, it wouldn't surprise me if they leave Ayrshire with the spoils and increase the chances of MacPhee landing the job on a permanent basis. (Tentative) prediction. Kilmarnock 0-1 Hearts.
Neil McGlade: Another victory under his stewardship may just shift MacPhee to the front of the queue for the Hearts job. Rugby Park is always a difficult venue to come away with three points but the Jambos are in a much better place to do so following Levein's dismissal, not to mention scoring five against St Mirren last time out. The surface isn't conducive to free-flowing football so I have a feeling this could be a real slugfest with the home side struggling for consistency too. Prediction: Goalless draw
Anthony Brown: Hearts have generally been more comfortable away from home this season than at Tynecastle, and they look defensively more assured on their travels when they are able to set up in a more compact manner. With Steven Naismith and Jamie Walker having boosted match fitness levels in recent weeks, they should be equipped to cause Kilmarnock problems at a stadium where they have triumphed on three of their last four visits. Prediction: Hearts win