HEARTS manager Gary Locke believes yesterday’s opening-day defeat at St Johnstone makes it imperative that his team win the first Edinburgh derby of the campaign at Tynecastle next Sunday.
Locke’s men remain 15 points adrift at the foot of the Scottish Premiership after their 1-0 loss at McDiarmid Park and he admits they will have to improve significantly if they are to overcome the deficit imposed on the club for going into administration.
Next weekend’s visit of Hibs, under a different kind of pressure after their poor start to the campaign, is already a crucial fixture in Locke’s eyes.
“It’s a game we will have to pick up points in,” said Locke.
“We want to eat into the 15 points as quickly as possible.
“We can certainly play better than we did today. There wasn’t a lot of quality and we lost a poor goal as well. We know we have to improve in the final third.
“We need to take shots when we create openings. Jamie Walker got the ball in the first half and took an extra couple of touches and he should have had a shot. If you don’t shoot you don’t score. We’ll need to brush up on that but it’s a long season and we battled well enough against a really good side, high on confidence.
“But we need to do better with our deliveries from set-plays and our final ball in the final third.”
There was an element of controversy to St Johnstone’s winning goal, scored in the 25th minute by Stevie May. Assistant referee Graham McNeillie raised his flag to indicate that David Wotherspoon was in an offside position but referee Steven MacLean over-ruled him.
Hearts captain Danny Wilson, booked for dissent when the goal was awarded, said: “The referee said that, although the player was offside, he didn’t think he was interfering with play.
“That was his take on it and I don’t understand why the linesman put his flag up if that was the case. It is a bit of a grey area with the rules. We just need to take it on the chin and move on with it.
“We had squeezed up when the cross-cum-shot came in from Stevie May. The linesman put his flag up and obviously you ask the question. Today it didn’t go for us, so maybe we will get one in the future.”
May, who also scored against Rosenborg in the Europa League during an impressive start to the season for St Johnstone, backed the officials.
“I was already celebrating the goal when one of the boys said the linesman’s flag was up,” he said. “Thankfully the ref saw sense, because I really don’t think anyone was interfering with play.”
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright was understandably delighted with a victory which maintains his team’s momentum ahead of the second leg of their Europa League third qualifying round tie against FC Minsk at McDiarmid Park on Thursday night, which they will start with a 1-0 advantage.
“You always want to get your first win in the domestic league,” said Wright. “I thought the lads went about it really well. We played at a good tempo and there were some passages of play in the first half that were excellent.
“In the second half we probably should have killed the game off, and we were a bit concerned at 1-0 that a set-play or mistake could have given them a chance. But I think we probably deserved it and should have scored one or two more.
“The lads recovered well from Belarus. We’ve known since pre-season how fit they’ve been so I had no concerns at all. If Hearts had won we wouldn’t have used that as an excuse.”