Don Cowie has urged Hearts to ensure their past three matches represent a minor blip rather than the onset of a crisis.
Supporters have been left disenchanted following a run of consecutive defeats at the hands of Hibs, Rangers and Kilmarnock which has resulted in Craig Levein’s side languishing nine points adrift of the Ladbrokes Premiership’s top four.
Prior to the Edinburgh derby loss at Easter Road just over three weeks ago, Hearts were just two points from third place after a run of three wins in five matches. Cowie, the 34-year-old midfielder, is confident the return of some key men from injury, allied to being able to play at Tynecastle again following 13 consecutive league fixtures away from their spiritual home, will help them rediscover their poise. Hearts are due to face Partick Thistle in Gorgie this Sunday, although the staging of the match is subject to the new-look stadium being granted a safety certificate by City of Edinburgh Council.
“It’s been a disadvantage to have the run of fixtures we’ve had but we’ve not moaned about it, and probably until the last three weeks, it’s been a decent return,” Cowie told the Evening News. “The last three results have been disappointing but up until that point, I think we had a decent points return, in the circumstances. After we beat St Johnstone, I looked at the league and thought we were in a really good place to kick on, but unfortunately the results against Hibs, Rangers and Kilmarnock weren’t what we wanted. We’ve just got to make sure we respond to what’s happened in the last three games.”
Hearts’ predicament hasn’t been helped by injuries to Cowie, Aaron Hughes, Prince Buaben, Jamie Walker, Arnaud Djoum and Ashley Smith-Brown of late, although the list of absentees is gradually reducing. “It’s been difficult because of the injuries we’ve had,” said Cowie. “We’ve had a lot of players missing from the same area (midfield) and we’ve also been missing a lot of the more experienced players. That’s not to say that the experienced players have to play but it helps having them about on a match-day, whether it’s on the bench or starting. It was good to see Aaron playing for Northern Ireland and Arnaud’s coming back into contention, so hopefully they can feature on Sunday, and Jamie shouldn’t be too far away after that. It’ll be good to get everyone available again.”
The main source of solace for Hearts in recent matches has been the first-team exposure enjoyed by a raft of teenagers, with Jamie Brandon, Lewis Moore, Euan Henderson, Harry Cochrane, Danny Baur and Rory Currie all having been given game time since Levein took charge in September. “A lot of young players have got a taste of first-team action in big games with big atmospheres and it’s been great to see they way they’ve handled it,” said Cowie. “The future looks really bright. It’s not just the ones that have played, but also the others who are just behind them. There are a lot of exciting players here, that’s for sure. I train with a lot of them. The way the club is, they’re always trying to push the youngsters, so they’re coming to train with us on a daily basis and you can see first-hand how good they are. They obviously need to develop a bit physically but that comes with time. In terms of ability, though, they’re really exciting.
“I can definitely see why the manager’s so excited by this batch. There are so many of them coming through that I wouldn’t even pick out specific names. A few of them have had a wee taste of it, so it’s now about trying to maintain their form and make sacrifices to try and keep improving. I’m sure in three or four years, there will be a lot of these boys playing for the club.”
• Former Hearts player and Bonnyrigg Rose Scottish Junior Cup winner Tommy Davidson has died following a battle with cancer. Davidson, who played for Hearts briefly in the late 1960s, was a member of Duddingston Golf Club for 49 years.