Comfort for Hearts lies in the fact their next two fixtures take place at Tynecastle Park. They are a different animal at home and have been for more than a decade, so can justifiably look forward to visits from Celtic and Hibs in the next eight days.
Friday night’s insipid defeat by Aberdeen at Pittodrie was simply the latest chapter in a never-ending series of disappointments on the road. Sub-standard results outwith Edinburgh have almost come to be expected, although not tolerated, by supporters.
“For some reason, we’re a different team at home. I don’t know why that is. Everyone has their chest out, ready to go,” says Lewis Moore, the teenager who filled in at left wing-back against Aberdeen.
He expects a more settled Hearts squad in time for next season starting, but the current campaign still has three games remaining. Pride is all there is left to play for but, at Tynecastle, Hearts remain formidable opponents.
They have gone a year without defeat there since Aberdeen’s 2-1 win on May 7, 2017. Four “home” games were staged at BT Murrayfield during that time whilst a new main stand was constructed, but nonetheless it remains an impressive statistic – in stark contrast to away results.
Hearts have won only four of their 19 away fixtures to date this season. Last season it was three. Moore hopes that is one of many issues addressed by team management during the close season.
“The gaffer will have pre-season to get us ready,” he continues. “Hopefully a lot of the boys will still be there, plus new ones coming in. Team spirit and bonding is huge in football. I’m not saying we don’t have team spirit just now because we do. It’s just tough at the moment. We want to make it a positive end to the season in these last three games. Especially against Hibs and Celtic.
“You’ve got to beat Hibs. I’ve been at Hearts since I was a wee boy and that’s what I’ve been taught. You don’t get beaten by Hibs, and that’s the case right from under-10s. It goes all the way up to the top.”
Friday night proved a chastening experience in young Moore’s footballing education. He lined up wide left and was asked to take on defensive duties with Marcus Godinho injured and the on-loan Demetri Mitchell not yet ready to return after injury.
The 19-year-old took the blame for Aberdeen’s second goal after Kenny McLean’s intelligent threaded through ball found Gary Mackay-Steven on Moore’s blind side for a calm finish.
Moore is realistic and is certainly not putting himself forward as the solution to Hearts’ perennial left-back problem.
“Nope. No chance. Unless I magically get a new left foot,” he smiles. “I’m put in there just to do a job. I try my best but, personally, I think one of my weak points is defending. Who else can you put in there just now? I just do my best.
“I’m willing to do the running. Wing-back is a tough position. I got caught for the second goal with the ball inside me. I’m young, I’m going to make mistakes and it’s all about learning. I would prefer to be higher up the pitch but, for now, game time is game time for me.”
He will be well served by a commendable attitude to learn from his errors and ensure there is no repeat.
“Mistakes can make people. It’s now about how I get back into training and forget about the mistakes. I’ll look at it, learn from it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“I definitely feel more comfortable further up with a full-back behind me. That gives me confidence to run at somebody and, if I lose the ball, there’s somebody behind me to protect.
“I kind of had an idea I might play wing-back with Demi just back and David Milinkovic having a knee injury. I played left-back before against Motherwell before so I thought it might be me. It was a tough night.”
A tough night towards the end of a rewarding season for so many Riccarton youth academy pupils. Hearts league position masks the success of the club’s youth policy, with the number of teens experiencing first team football this season into double figures.
There is much more to come, according to Moore. “We’re all trying to make our mark for next season and stay in the team. Every time I’m on that pitch, I’m trying to do my best wherever I am. Not everyone plays well every week,” he says.
“Every one of us is learning a huge amount every day in training. There are all these experienced players around us but we’ve got to make the most of this. We need to take our chances when we’re playing. There aren’t many places where you would be playing at such a young age. Hopefully next season is the same for all the younger ones and the chances keep coming.”
Under the guidance of manager Craig Levein and established names like Christophe Berra, Aaron Hughes and Don Cowie, the kids are having to grow up quickly. Moore intends to push his career on next season and establish himself as a regular in the Hearts first team.
“Next season is a big season, especially for me. I’ll be 20 by the start of next season,” he points out.
“I’m looking to push on, grow in confidence every week and make a mark in the first team. One thing is to set a target of how many games I want to play. I’m also still looking for my first goal, and once I do that I want to get more. I really just want to be playing.
“I’ve played 14 games so far this year so I’d look to get a wee bit beyond the 15 mark next year. Any young player just wants to be on the pitch as much as they can and I’m no different.”