Amid the euphoria of Sunday’s subjugation of Celtic at Tynecastle, there was the realisation that, regardless of the magnitude of the achievement, the reward remained the same as it had been for victory over Motherwell and Dundee in the preceding fixtures.
Given their use in closing the gap on the teams above them, Hearts welcomed the three points and have admitted that the triumph bolstered confidence but, in following that up with their first away fixture in nine matches, the capital side now have to find a way to end another run.
It has been more than seven years since they won a league game at McDiarmid Park, nine games since they bettered the Perth side in any competition on their own patch and, while St Johnstone’s upper hand in those head to heads does not scale the heights of Celtic’s 69-game domestic dominance,it is another laudable sequence that Craig Levein’s men are determined to end.
“McDiarmid Park is a tough place for everyone, but that’s some stat,” admitted John Souttar, who is available to return to the side after sitting out last weekend’s match. “We’ll just need to try to make it right at the weekend. We won at Fir Park for the first time in a while last season. Hearts are renowned for not being the best away from home over the years because they rely on Tynecastle so much. We need to change that.
“It’ll be a completely different game to last weekend. It’ll be a different atmosphere – we’ll need to create our own atmosphere. It’s always tough up there.
“St Johnstone know their pitch and they know how to play. They’re an experienced team. They’re a clever side but we did well against them at Murrayfield earlier in the season.”
With only three games between now and the winter break, Souttar says the players are targeting an even higher placing by then. Having made it to fifth, they need to put daylight between themselves and Tommy Wright’s men, who remain hot on their tails, while a strong showing in the next three games could give them the opportunity to also overhaul rivals Hibernian.
“The league table looks a lot better than it did before. It just shows how quickly things can change. We’ve gone under the radar a bit in the last few weeks, and sometimes that’s a good thing. This is now a massive week coming up for us. Hopefully we’ll come out of it in a good position.
“We’ve had three good wins in a row against three good teams and if we play anywhere near the way we did on Sunday, we’ll have a good chance in the games coming up.
“I think that result was coming because there have been games where we’ve played well and there have been games where we’ve grafted and ground our way to results without being particularly easy on the eye. I think Sunday was the outcome of everything coming together.
“It’s all very well saying that we’re doing this or that, but it’s the talking you do on the pitch that counts. On Sunday, it all clicked.
“Everything that could have gone right, went right, basically. Everyone played out their skin.
“But at the end of the day it’s only three points – we’ve got to do that again on Saturday.”