They may have gone six games without a win now but the general performance against Rangers, particularly the strong opening half hour, suggested Hearts still have enough about them to reignite their season in the coming weeks.
Without being excellent by any stretch, they competed well against a Rangers side riding a wave of positivity and produced a display which was at least a significant improvement on the previous weekend’s meek showing against St Mirren. The defence and the midfield functioned fairly well for most of the match, but Hearts are still clearly missing the stardust of Uche Ikpeazu and Steven Naismith in the attacking third which would allow them to play with more purpose and potency. While Wednesday’s trip to on-form St Johnstone looks laced with danger and could easily result in a seventh game without a win, it is clear that the Hearts players are in no mood to throw in the towel despite the remarkable adversity they have faced this season.
The tenacity shown by the likes of Arnaud Djoum, Olly Bozanic, Peter Haring and Christophe Berra, allied to the pumped-up antics of Zdenek Zlamal after Scott Arfield’s red card, shows there is still plenty passion and desire in this Hearts squad despite the recent downturn in results. The fact they were unable to hurt Rangers in the second half was down to a mixture of the visitors’ excellent defending and the fact Hearts are currently short of match-winners in attack. The imminent return of Naismith, allied to the arrival of David Vanecek next month, should be enough to ensure that the raw fight they showed is augmented with a high-quality cutting edge, which should in turn lead to Hearts being able to capitalise when they start games as well as they did in this match.
Although it looks increasingly likely that Celtic and Rangers are going to pull away in the top two positions, the Tynecastle side are still mathematically within striking distance, which is remarkable in itself given their recent troubles. With traditional rivals Hibs and Aberdeen currently in the bottom six, Hearts are entitled to feel that, after giving the new league leaders a stern test, they can still make this a fruitful campaign once their attacking big-hitters are added to the mix.