EIGHT more points to go, then they get to zero. Hearts’ countdown to their first objective may have stalled on Saturday, but when they look back over their first five games as a whole they can be content with the progress they made, according to Jamie MacDonald.
“Our objective is to get to zero as quickly as possible,” the goalkeeper said after his team’s 2-0 defeat by league leaders Inverness Caley Thistle. “We’re only five games in: that’s the main thing. There were a lot of young boys with their heads down at the end, but the key is to remain positive.
“It’s natural when you lose a game, you’re always disappointed. But the gaffer said at the end we’ve to make sure our heads are kept high.
“We’ve played Aberdeen, Inverness and St Johnstone, who will all probably make it into the top five, and we’ve got Celtic next. It’s been a very difficult start for us and we’ve done well. If you’d offered us seven points before that, we’d have probably been happy with that.”
A sobering opening-day defeat at St Johnstone did not augur well for Gary Locke’s young team, but home wins against Hibernian and Aberdeen and a point at Partick showed both fighting spirit and a lot of footballing ability. “I wouldn’t say I’ve been surprised [by the results], because I see the young players day in, day out and we’ve got a lot of talent there,” MacDonald continued.
“The surprise is maybe how quickly they’ve adapted to first-team football, but a lot of that is to do with the fans getting behind them. Everybody’s been in it together, and I think that shows on the pitch.
“We’ve got a lot of young, inexperienced players, but they work their balls off, to put it bluntly. We’ll get better as the season goes on, and if we work like that we’ll get more good results than bad results.
“First half I thought we played quite well and they scored with two breaks. They were just more clinical.”
Caley Thistle’s Aaron Doran accepted that his team merited some of that credit, but was also critical of their inability to make the final outcome more decisive. “I think we could have finished the game off earlier,” he said. “We had a few chances as well as the penalty. We need to make ourselves a bit more ruthless at the end of games. We had a lot of chances in the second half and we didn’t punish Hearts like we should. If we’re playing against Celtic or someone like that, they could punish us.
“Teams with young players can die off in games, but Hearts went right to the final whistle and that’s a credit to them. They’re fighting for their lives at the moment and all their fans can be proud of them.”