HEARTS manager John McGlynn was left clinging to the hope that everything can be different against St Mirren at Hampden in 18 days time after his side succumbed meekly to their League Cup final opponents last night.
The Tynecastle manager admitted the 2-0 reverse was not ideal preparation but stressed the outcome was no more than that.
“I’d have much rather have won the game tonight and taken it into that game. Its not to be, but tonight doesn’t decide the League Cup final,” he said. “It’ll be a different ball game at Hampden, a cup final and a one off. Different situation, different place, different crowd, bigger atmosphere, a lot more involved in the game.”
McGlynn must pray that his team find form for that occasion that is consistently eluding them in the Scottish Premier League, with last night their third straight defeat in a run that has brought them one only victory in their past eight outings. The Hearts manager bemoaned the loss of a “cheap” goal after four minutes that set his team on the way to a result that drops them to 11th in the league table – his choice of words implicit criticism of Darren Barr, with a challenge by the defender on Lee Mair resulting in the penalty from which Paul McGowan opened the scoring.
“The first goal was a killer, to lose such a cheap goal so early,” he said. “The last thing we needed when you’re not going well is to lose a goal away from home like that. It puts you under severe pressure and gives St Mirren a lift. They’ve not been going that well either, so you want to get that first goal. They got it, gave them belief and made them work harder. We turned it around second half and I thought we put a lot into it. We had a lot more of the ball going towards the St Mirren goal without creating too many clear-cut chances.”
McGlynn thought his team might have had a penalty when Lee Mair pulled back John Sutton in the early minutes of the second half. “The penalty they got I thought was a softish decision,” he said. “I thought he might have evened it up with that one.”
The evening was illuminated by Carey’s corking drive that deservedly drew comparisons with a Gareth Bale special for St Mirren manager Danny Lennon. “Graham has some left foot and is a terrific talent,” he said. “There’s no doubt there was a touch of the Gareth Bale about his goal and if he had scored it then everyone would be talking about it. Goals like that need to be highlighted whether it’s Tottenham Hotspur or St Mirren. It showed the belief he has in his ability and left-sided players look more elegant and it looks effortless even from far out distances. I thought: ‘Why are you hitting that from there?’ But you saw that was the reason.”
Lennon dismissed any suggestions of the win providing a pointer to the cup final. “There was a lot of the media building this up as a dress rehearsal for the cup final, but we didn’t go into the game like that. We only saw the prize of three points to give us the opportunity to climb the table.”