HEARTS could be six points clear at the top of the Championship by tomorrow evening, and would then maintain that advantage if Hibernian were to win at Ibrox on Monday night. Yet, while that advantage would be a significant morale boost with less than a quarter of the programme played, there is no tendency at Tynecastle to dwell on such hypothetical pleasantries.
According to club captain Danny Wilson, the emphasis is purely on getting the required three points against Livingston. Hearts have lost to the West Lothian club already this season, after fielding a much-weakened team in the Petrofac Cup, but they will be at full strength tomorrow.
“They’ll have good memories from the last time we played, but it will be a different team that they’re coming up against, at a different venue,” the centre-half said. “I’ve no doubt Tynecastle will be full yet again, so it will be a different game altogether.
“We’ve set high standards this season, and when we drop below them, as we did in the first half against Cowdenbeath last weekend, we’re not happy. We were able to put it right in the second half, and we need to try and maintain the standards that we set. If we do that, then hopefully we’ll have a good season.
“If we win on Sunday it takes us three points closer to our aim, and that’s all we’re really thinking about. If Hibs are able to do us a favour on Monday, that’ll be great, because it’ll open up a bigger gap. But we’re not the only ones at the top of the league. Rangers are a couple of points behind us, and Raith Rovers have started really well, so it is tight.
“Any advantage you could get early on would be great, but it’s not about where we are just now – it’s about where we are at the end of the season.”
Although Hibs are ten points adrift of the top and struggling to find consistency, Wilson is not writing them off and believes their League Cup win at Ross County could help them find improved form in the league. “That might be the springboard they need to get their season back on track,” he said.
“I’ve seen a couple of Hibs’ games and they’re not a million miles away. They just need a wee chance to go in here or there and it could be the difference between one or three points in games.
“But I’m not really focused on Hibs. I’m more focused on Hearts, and currently we’re at the top and that’s where we’d like to stay. It’s going to be difficult – we’re at the top and we’re there to be shot at. That’s just something we’ll have to deal with, and it’s a challenge we’re all looking forward to.”
Assistant coach Stevie Crawford thinks that his players may need to remain patient if they are to get the upper hand against Livingston.
“We went to Raith and scored early in that game, then Raith had to come out,” he said. “We got the first goal against Cowdenbeath, but they equalised and made it difficult in the first half.
“Sunday might be different. Patience might be the key – we might have to wait 60 or 70 minutes to get ahead. We’ve not come up against that apart from the Hibs game, when it took a wonder goal from Sam [Nicholson] to put us ahead. There are no easy games in this league, and we’ll give Livingston every respect.”