Admitting it was a bitter blow, Tynecastle manager Daniel Stendel still managed to extract small positives from the situation and says the midweek results meant that at least the team talk ahead of this afternoon’s fixture with Motherwell became fairly straightforward.
“I felt good that we had won [at Easter Road]. But the next day, although it was a day off, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I would say to the players in the dressing room.
“With the result and the celebrations on Tuesday, I wanted players to keep their focus for this game and I was going to tell them that it’s a whole new game and that we need the same concentration and same attitude for Motherwell. But, after Hamilton winning, I don’t need to say so much, do I? That’s the one advantage of that result.”
The Tynecastle side are embroiled in a nip-and-tuck relegation battle with the Lanarkshire club and, with games beginning to run out, there is little margin for error.
Hearts face Motherwell today, knowing they can no longer afford to finish games empty-handed, but also aware that if they can build on the momentum gained from their own victory over Rangers in the Scottish Cup, followed by the 3-1 defeat of Hibs, then they can still avoid the automatic drop and even escape the relegation play-off place.
“Yeah, the teams around us are winning,” acknowledged Stendel. “But we can’t look at the other teams, we only have to look after ourselves. The good thing is we have a chance to play against all the teams around us again and we need to show our best performances in those games. Then we can worry about the other teams.”
The recent results have bolstered hope, with the Hearts boss compromising his playing style and reshuffling his pack and happy that the team now has the right balance.
“Some things we cannot influence, like injuries – John Souttar and Toby Sibbick, for instance. But other things needed time. At the moment, the balance is good. We do some new things in training because we have only one goal, that is to stay up, and for that we need to win games. That is more important than anything else.”
There has been panic in the ranks at times this season as the pressure from the stands and from within saw Hearts lose their minds as some tried to force things and others abdicated responsibility. However, there was greater calm in the past two outings, which was one of the things that pleased Stendel most, particularly on Tuesday night. “We didn’t lose patience,” he added. “I know we need to win games but we don’t need to win them in the first ten minutes. I was confident we would score a goal and we were defending well.
“You could see every player on the pitch fighting to keep a clean sheet. It didn’t matter that we were 3-0 in front, we tried to defend until the last minute. And this is a good sign also. It shows me they are improving.
“We want to play in front, we want to win games and play quickly after winning the ball. But it’s not possible every time and I think, especially in our situation, it’s important to decide to do the right things at the right time. With more confidence and a little bit more luck in the right situations, we would win more games.”