JOHN McGlynn has warned his Hearts side against complacency ahead of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash against a depleted St Johnstone.
Saints manager Steve Lomas is banished to the stand, while defenders Dave Mackay, Frazer Wright and Steven Anderson are suspended along with midfielder Chris Millar.
“They do have defensive problems, because they have four players suspended for the game,” McGlynn said. “From the midfield forward they’ve still got a lot of attacking options, so we have to make sure that we don’t think just because St Johnstone have got a few suspensions it’s just a matter of turning up. That can be costly. We’ve got to make sure we have the right attitude.
“We won against Aberdeen last week and we look to go up to Perth and play as well if not better and be as committed, if not more, and win that football match.”
Against Aberdeen, McGlynn changed tack and started with John Sutton and Gordon Smith up front in a 4-4-2 formation.
Hearts could continue with that line-up this weekend, although at least one change in personnel will be necessary with midfielder Mehdi Taouil out with a groin problem.
McGlynn added: “It was good to get back with a victory against a decent Aberdeen side, as was shown in midweek with their good cup victory against Motherwell.
“We want to try to build on the victory we’ve just had. We’re looking for consistency.”
Kevin McHattie has slotted in seamlessly at left-back following Danny Grainger’s cruciate knee ligament injury. The 19-year-old was on loan at Alloa last season and is enjoying playing alongside Hearts captain Marius Zaliukas and Andy Webster, another experienced defender.
McHattie said: “It’s good for me as a young lad to come through the youth ranks. This is good experience for me. I’ve just got to concentrate on myself and try to do my best.”
McHattie, who moved to Hearts aged 16 from Dunfermline, has played against Celtic, Hibernian and the Dons in recent weeks. “It’s hard,” he said. “It’s hard for me as a young kid coming through. I’ve got to concentrate and I’ve got Marius and Webby there to keep me right.”
McHattie appears set to occupy the left-back berth for the rest of the campaign and is optimistic, if the current squad stays together, of a successful season. He said: “Top four, I reckon, with the squad we’ve got.”
St Johnstone manager Steve Lomas will pay no attention to Hearts’ financial problems as he prepares his side for today’s clash.
The Gorgie club are battling against a cash crisis and recently averted a winding-up order after paying Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs a £450,000 bill, while also settling another issue with the tax authority by agreeing to pay £1.5million over three years.
The Hearts players deferred their wages last month – which are now up to date – but although more than £800,000 has been raised by a share issue scheme launched in October, it is less than half of the £1.79 million target and director Sergejus Fedotovas has warned of tough times ahead.
Lomas believes all that turmoil will be “irrelevant” to the Hearts players when the game begins.
“I don’t think it will have an effect on them. They have been through it all before,” said the Northern Irishman. “Hearts players have played when they have had no wages, they have always been professional. The game is played on the pitch. Once you step over that white line everything is forgotten about. Everything else is irrelevant. You are there to do a job and they will want to prove a point. They will be wanting to win a game of football.
“So it is going to be tough. They are a side jam-packed with good players like Ryan McGowan and John Sutton, so we will have to work hard and play well to get something from the game.”
Lomas does not have his own problems to seek this week.
The Perth boss will ask David McCracken if he is ready to return early from his fractured cheekbone as Saints face an injury crisis in defence.
McCracken was expected to be out for six weeks after picking up the injury which required surgery when he clashed heads with Celtic midfielder Victor Wanyama during the 1-1 draw at Parkhead on 11 November.
Lomas, though, is heartened by the character his side showed last week in battling for a draw against The Buddies.
He said: “It won’t be a makeshift side. It is now down to boys to come in and show what they can do. That is a challenge for all the players. If they come in and play well then they keep the shirt.
“Last week the players showed me what I knew already, they have great character. They are an honest bunch, they have shown it from day one and the players who came in during the summer have been the same.”