Gary Mackay: The reason for Hearts' extra edge as season's climax nears

Seven points out of nine from two away games at St Mirren and Dundee United, plus a home game against Aberdeen, is a decent return and I think Hearts have to be happy with that overall.
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Above and beyond that, the start made in each of these games is really encouraging in my opinion. They’ve come out attacking and pushing the opposition back. With a passionate support behind you, everything can take off when you start matches in that manner.

Everybody gets a lift and it’s been really great to watch as a fan. The Aberdeen game in particular was pleasing because of the way the players went about their business. It was as close to complete dominance of an Aberdeen teams as I’ve seen from Hearts for many years.

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Starting aggressively suits Hearts traditionally. Think back to Jim Jefferies’ teams and George Burley’s team. George in particular developed a knack of having some games won by half-time and the punters were loving it.

Hearts players celebrate Liam Boyce's early goal at Tannadice on Saturday.Hearts players celebrate Liam Boyce's early goal at Tannadice on Saturday.
Hearts players celebrate Liam Boyce's early goal at Tannadice on Saturday.

They started off brightly against St Mirren and Aberdeen and that became the foundation for victory. They also began just as sharply at Tannadice on Saturday and looked like winning again, especially after scoring so early, but a lot of different bits of adversity made it a different challenge.

There were all the injuries, the substitutions, players out of position, and then we ended up 2-1 behind. However, it showed that confidence and belief is there when Craig Halkett headed in that equaliser. Some of that faith probably came from the previous two games.

The supporters kept with the team, again perhaps in some way because of the previous two matches, so that lifts you in a way. Then you get the equaliser to take you into a big Scottish Cup game this weekend against St Mirren.

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Robbie Neilson has been making positive noises about what the expectations should be for this Hearts team. I think they align with most supporters and definitely with myself. Hearts should be looking to progress far in the cup.

We’ve had a home tie against Livingston and got through, now it’s another home tie against a St Mirren team we recently beat in Paisley. They are still getting bedded in under a new manager. In the cup, you can’t ask for anything more than home draws. It’s up to us to make sure we take advantage of it and progress to the semi-finals.

Since the club’s Scottish Cup hoodoo was broken in 1998, everybody at Tynecastle looks forward to the competition now. We’ve lifted the trophy twice since then, and on one of those occasions Robbie was in the team.

There is no better man in that sense to pass on his experience. He’s been there, seen it, done it and got the t-shirt. He can explain to the players exactly what it’s like representing Hearts in the latter stages of cups.

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We got to the final a couple of years ago and lost to Celtic on penalties. I think this is a real opportunity now because Celtic and Rangers are fighting for the league, so you hope they might take their eye off the cup a bit.

Either way, let’s hope Hearts start Saturday’s tie as positively as they have the other games recently.

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