Hearts striker Isma Goncalves aims to delay Celtic party

Isma Goncalves has history'¨when it comes to spoiling '¨Celtic's party plans.

Young Hearts fans Jojo, left, and Skye, right, are pictured with Craig Wilson of Big Hearts, Isma Goncalves, Malaury Martin and SPFL Trust general manager Nicky Reid. Picture: Craig Watson

The striker netted just eight minutes into his St Mirren debut at the start of 2013, to knock Celtic out at the semi-final stage of that season’s League Cup. It was a result that ultimately helped the Paisley side secure the silverware in that competition but it cost the Glasgow side the treble.

Having revelled in the role of party pooper then, Goncalves says he would love to reprise that part on Sunday, when Celtic travel to Tynecastle.

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If Dundee succeed in beating second-placed Aberdeen at Dens Park tomorrow night, that result will already have handed Brendan Rodgers’ men the title but if the matter is still alive when Celtic travel to the capital, Goncalves says that Hearts will be doing everything possible to delay the inevitable.

To do that they will need to do what everyone else in 
Scotland has failed to do and beat the champions elect.

On the evidence of recent results that may seem unlikely, with only five wins in 17 games since Ian Cathro took over. But among them is the impressive victory over Rangers, which Goncalves claims is proof that they can match the top teams on their day.

“We don’t want them to have a party in our home,” said 
Goncalves. “We are going to do everything to be the first team to beat them. It would be amazing to be the only team who beat them until now.”

That air of invincibility is something that teams like Hearts can only envy but while the 25-year-old respects the achievement, he sees no 
reason why he and his team-mates can’t prevent them 
making it another week without a domestic defeat.

“Of course it’s impressive but we are also a good team,” he added. “When we are on our day, we can beat them. We showed it against Rangers. If we are on a good day, we can achieve amazing things.”

Goncalves was speaking at the Big Hearts Community Trust Kinship Care programme as he helped launch the SPFL Trust Trusted Trophy Tour. The initiative aims to highlight the work clubs are doing in the community and help them engage with around one million people over the next five years.

The striker says that having made a mockery of the underdog status in his St Mirren debut, he can do it again.

“Hopefully we can. It would be nice,” he said. “I like these games. I like to play against the big teams. It’s a chance to show we also have qualities. It is not impossible to beat them. I did it already so I think we can make it happen here at Hearts. We have prepared well and everything we do in training is about how we can stop them and beat them and it has been good, it has been great and hopefully we can show that on the pitch.

“We are working on how we can beat them and how we can play to stop them. I hope it’s going to work.”

The pressure is on the team, with fans worried that hopes of securing a European place are in jeopardy. A positive performance and any share of the points against Celtic would help assuage those concerns and give the club a boost at the start of a busy week that also includes a head to head with St Johnstone and then Dundee as they seek to move back into contention for one of the Europa League qualifying spots.

“Europe is still a possibility. We still have to play St Johnstone home and away. There are nine games so I think we can make it. That’s our target,” said the player who has been on the scoresheet four times in his eight appearances since joining in January. “It is a little bit difficult because we came in and some players take a little time to adapt to Scottish football. It is different from football elsewhere in Europe and we need time to adapt. But I think we can make amazing things happen. We are a good team and we have a lot of good players and we now just have to show it.

“Of course it’s important that the fans are with us because we need them to push us on. It is important to score the first goal because then it is easier to play. We can then focus on the game. So, one goal of a start would be amazing. But even if we are losing 1-0 at the start then it is not finished because when Celtic score a goal, they relax a bit and that gives us a chance.”