HEARTS manager Gary Locke believes his young players can take inspiration from Celtic’s creditable Champions League display in Milan as they look to return to winning ways in their battle against relegation this weekend.
After a bright start to the season which saw them claw back seven of the 15 points the club had been deducted for going into administration, Hearts have suffered back-to-back defeats against Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Celtic in their last two Premiership outings. But Locke is confident that his team have not been knocked off course and points to their performance level in last Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat against Celtic as evidence.
“We haven’t lost momentum, not at all,” said Locke. “I watched the Celtic performance again, analysed it in depth, and it’s clear that we matched a top team for long spells.
“As we saw on Wednesday, Celtic’s performance at the San Siro tells you how good a side they are. They dominated that game and were really unlucky not to get something out of it.
“Yet our very young team matched Celtic for long spells. We can certainly take a lot from that. It definitely gives our boys a lot of belief, to see how well Celtic did against a team like AC Milan. It reminds them of how well we played against a team of top stars and full internationals. We must take confidence from that.
“In general, the boys are gaining confidence all the time this season. The more games you compete in, the more belief you get. I see that on the training pitch.”
Hearts head north tomorrow to face Ross County, one of the teams on whom they will hope to significantly close the gap at the bottom of the table in the coming months.
“We’re going into this game on the back of two defeats, which obviously we’re not happy about,” added Locke. “But we’ve played the two top teams in the country in our last two games and we’ve applied ourselves really well.
“As important as not losing momentum is the fact that we haven’t lost ground. Nobody here is forgetting just how big a task it’s going to be to stay up.
“But we’ve got a run of games now where, if we’re going to give ourselves a chance, this is where we need to pick up points. It starts with Ross County away, which is another difficult game. We must pick up points and improve our away form, which hasn’t been great for the last couple of years.”