Gary Locke insists his team’s ongoing battle against relegation – and not League Cup revenge – will be uppermost in Hearts’ minds when they travel to take on Inverness this weekend.
The sides face each other on Saturday, just a fortnight on from their remarkable League Cup semi-final at Easter Road and with Hearts not having played a game since.
The Tynecastle outfit were just seconds away from setting up a final showdown with Aberdeen when, four minutes into injury-time, they allowed Nick Ross to equalise for nine-man Caley Thistle, who held out in extra-time and went on to win the penalty shoot-out. Locke has admitted he and his squad and staff were forced to endure a “difficult week” on the back of such a disappointment.
However, after giving his players some time off to recover both mentally and physically from the tie and recent exertions, the Gorgie boss is eager to ensure everyone now refocuses on the task they face in the Premiership. Having drawn with St Johnstone and defeated both Ross County and St Mirren before their League Cup body blow, Hearts had hauled themselves over the magical zero points threshold and to within 17 points of second-bottom Partick Thistle. And, if they are to keep alive their slim hopes of avoiding automatic relegation, Locke admits they now need to recover quickly from the League Cup heartache and put together a run of positive results.
He said: “I don’t really want to talk too much about it but it was a hard one to take. It was definitely a difficult week for us all. I’m sure all the players will tell you the same, and as a coaching staff as well. It was a sore one. But we have to bounce back. We’ve got 13 games remaining and to give ourselves any chance at all we need to try to go on a little run now.
“The boys are looking forward to the game on Saturday and, hopefully, we can get three points and put pressure on the teams above us.
“It’s always a difficult place to go but in the league, certainly, we’ve picked up in the last few games.
“It’s important the players take confidence from that. We’ve won the last two and drawn one. So, we’ve put a little run together and, if we’re to give ourselves any chance, we’ve got to try and win the next two or three games.”