Positives for Hearts to pick from Celtic Park debris as they prepare for Livingston
Hearts should not find it difficult to pluck some positivity from the debris of missiles, offside goals and questionable officiating at Celtic Park on Thursday night.
The Edinburgh club lost a contentious affair 1-0 but competed for long spells against a bigger rival at a venue where they have been almost routinely crushed for years. It was a welcome change despite the unsavoury incidents and lingering feeling of injustice over Kyogo’s winning goal.
Peter Haring’s display epitomised the rallying. The Austrian started his first match in almost three months in place of the injured midfielder Beni Baningime. Grateful for the opportunity, he was one of Hearts’ strongest players on a frustrating evening in Glasgow.
Manager Robbie Neilson will have noted Haring’s contribution as he perhaps contemplates some squad rotation for the busy Christmas period. It has not been a season to be jolly for Haring so far, but if he can secure more game time over the coming weeks that may change. He is content with making his point against Celtic.
“Definitely. I was happy with my performance and I hope the gaffer was as well,” said Haring, speaking exclusively to the Evening News. “I think he knows what I’m capable of. The last few months, he has played with Cammy [Devlin] and Beni there. They did quite well and we got the results so it was hard for him to change the team.
“The gaffer knows me. I think I did well on Thursday and obviously I hope I’m going to make it much harder for him to make a decision in the future.
“I was obviously buzzing when I found out I was going to start. It’s been a long time for me waiting to start and play a full 90 minutes again. I think in the last ten or 15 minutes you could see I was blowing a bit.
“You can train as much as you want but, when you haven’t played for such a long time, it’s going to be tough. Especially towards the end of the game. It’s worse when you are playing Celtic away.
“There are long periods when you just chase the ball and that makes you tired. The second half helped because we kept the ball much better. I’m happy with my performance personally.”
He may need to produce another 90 minutes on Sunday at Livingston as Hearts prepare for a very different environment to Glasgow’s east end. Despite the lack of competitive match action, Haring stressed he wants to go again in West Lothian.
“Yes, definitely. I’ve waited long enough to play again. When you have a few games coming close together, it’s more a mentality thing. I’ve definitely got enough in my legs to play again on Sunday.”
The player looks happier in himself, probably a direct result of his reinstatement by Neilson plus those small signs that Hearts are not miles away from matching Celtic in a one-off game.
Possession and statistics from Thursday night were vastly in the home side’s favour and it required a handful of defiant Craig Gordon saves to prevent a more convincing scoreline. That said, the second half was a particularly open affair in which Hearts should have scored at least once given the chances they created.
“It was a big step forward compared to the last time we went to Celtic. We kept it open for the full 90 minutes and we competed really well with them,” explained Haring. “In the second half, we kept the ball much better than the first half. It’s probably the most disappointing result at Celtic Park since I have played for Hearts.
“I saw a video of the winning goal in the dressing room and it’s offside. It’s clear. I saw it during the game and I couldn’t believe it. We all saw it so it’s even more disappointing when you lose in that way.
“To win at Parkhead, everything needs to be perfect. You’re performance needs to be at the top level and I think ours was in the second half. You need a bit of luck as well and we absolutely did not have that on Thursday. It’s disappointing.
“You know how hard it is when you see how long we have had to wait to win there. We did all we could. I think it was a good enough performance to take at least a point away.”
Although preoccupied with retaining a place in Hearts’ starting XI, Haring’s longer-term future is still very much unclear. His contract at Tynecastle Park expires at the end of the campaign. To date, there have been no discussions regarding an extension.
Colleagues like Gordon, John Souttar, Craig Halkett and Stephen Kingsley have been asked to get round the table and talk about new deals. Haring is not unduly flustered about waiting.
Asked what he would like to happen regarding his future, he replied: “Well, that’s a good question. I want to play games, obviously. When you are not playing and you are out of the team, it’s very disappointing. You think even less about that [the future] you just want to get back into the team and onto the pitch.
“I will just take it as it comes. There is still plenty of time this season. I hope I get more games and more minutes, then we will see what happens.
“There haven’t been any talks yet. The club have started talking to a few players but I’m not really involved in that. I haven’t been speaking to them. There is still plenty of time so we will see what happens.”