Clevid Dikamona’s derby impact praised by ex-Hearts defender Andy Webster

For much of the season Clevid Dikamona has warmed the bench and simply made up the numbers.

Clevid Dikamona salutes the Hearts fans after the 3-1 derby win at Easter Road on Tuesday. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

Which is why Andy Webster has been so impressed with the impact the Congolese defender has made in the last two fixtures, earning a well-merited man of the match award after he came on early in the game against Rangers and backing that up with another winning performance against Hibernian on Tuesday.

“The pace of a derby when you are match-fit is difficult enough so he did really well,” said the man who netted one of the three goals in January 2012, the last time Hearts travelled to their city rivals and netted more than two goals. “These are the things that people generally tend not to look at too much and something he deserves great credit for.”

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The derby victory was only the 29-year-old’s seventh start of the campaign but the fact he was able to slot in effortlessly when John Souttar was carried off so early in the cup victory over Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox side, deserves to be lauded according to Webster.

He believes it is the kind of contribution that will earn him the admiration of his team-mates and his manager, who now know they can rely on him. It has been suggested that Daniel Stendel is already on the lookout for defensive back-up following the news that Souttar’s Achilles injury will rule him out for the remainder of the season but Dikamona’s attitude and display means the German boss does not need to rush into a panic buy.

“He has probably been through a difficult period. He was in one of the hospitality suites on Saturday and said he was working really hard but, ultimately, footballers work hard every day and they are all working towards a match day. So, if you are not getting the end reward it is hard to maintain your focus, your motivation and drive and determination. But he has done that.

“When you have spent a period of time on the sidelines and you then get your chance, whether that is due to team selection or, in this case, John Souttar unfortunately picking up an injury, he has recognised that it is his time to shine. As footballers you know you have to grasp that opportunity and he deserves credit because, in two big, two important games, he has done that.”

“If I was the coach then I would be comfortable, really comfortable, with the performances he has put in,” added the Scotland international, who enjoyed two spells at Hearts, sitting out the 2006 cup final but picking up a winner’s medal for the part he played in the 2012 Scottish Cup win over Hibs. “You look at his last two games and know there is no issue defensively and that is a huge testament to him because sometimes, having not played for a long period of time, it can be difficult to get up to speed, especially in games like these, but I thought he looked very comfortable.

“That is the best way of determining whether you have had a good game defensively, if you have come through it without looking stretched. I thought him and Craig Halkett have both been excellent.”

Finding some kind of backbone has been vital, with the Gorgie club one of the worst in the league for goals conceded and, along with relegation rivals Hamilton, have the fewest cleans sheets in the 
Premiership.

Stendel hadn’t quite reached the end of his tether but had been relying on some rope tricks in training to unify his backline and tighten things up.

The last two games have shown signs of improvement and while the goal-scoring contributions made by Sean Clare, Oliver Bozanic and Conor Washington in the past two games have been applauded, Webster cites the failure to make it two successive clean sheets as being the only blemish, saying that the backline deserved that confidence boost.

“When you work in a back four or five, you need to work as a cohesive unit. In the last two performances against Hibs and Rangers, they have done that. Dikamona has come on and he has done very well in the two games. Craig Halkett was very good against Hibs, defensively, getting in there, heading, winning the football. Aaron Hickey was excellent one v one with Martin Boyle and rarely allowed Boyle to get to the touchline and get dangerous balls across.

“They have looked solid and Hibs never really looked like they would cut them open. And they have some talented players, like Scott Allan, who can split a defence and make that defining pass but Hearts, defensively, were excellent. The only disappointment was that they lost the goal.”

But he feels they do now have some momentum and, just as they overcame adversity in 2012, when they were not being paid their wages but still pulled together to get results, he believes the precarious situation they find themselves in now can have a galvanising effect.

“Under Romanov, it was like that at times as well, but as a team the one thing we knew we could control was what happened out on the pitch. That is the same for these players and they can kick on from these games and keep building momentum.

“It sometimes takes one result to build confidence but then you need another to back that up. Hearts will be looking to kick on from here. When you have had negative experiences for a prolonged period of time, you are never too far away from that so momentum is huge. But if Hearts can string together a few positive performances, like the last two, then the bad run will become a distant memory and they can still have a positive end to the season. They have shown what they are capable of.”