Hearts head to Rangers in buoyant mood and tell Aberdeen: 'You’ve got everything to lose now'
This has been a season of disappointment for the Jambos, particularly during the spring, but defeating Aberdeen 2-1 at Tynecastle on Saturday not only kept alive their hopes of toppling the Dons – two points clear of fourth-placed Hearts with two matches to go in the Premiership – but gave the club a much-needed lift with a big-game victory. By far and away the more attack-minded team, they recovered from losing the opening goal to Mattie Pollock thanks to a sumptuous strike from Josh Ginnelly and Lawrence Shankland’s winner on 56 minutes. Had the margin of victory been greater, Aberdeen could not have complained.
Wednesday night is going to be seismic at both ends of the table with six league matches slated all at the same time. Hearts travel to Ibrox to face Rangers while Aberdeen host St Mirren. Hibs are not out of the equation either, technically, and take on Celtic at Easter Road. The Jambos have the momentum but a trip to Govan, where Rangers are undefeated domestically this season, is a very tall order indeed.
"I think every game we go into win,” Hearts defender Nathaniel Atkinson said in the wake of beating the Dons. “The way Ibrox is going at the moment, they are sort of in a rebuild stage and looking on to next season but we’ve still got stuff to fight for this season. With a performance like that, we’ll go there with confidence.”
Atkinson was asked whether Rangers having nothing to play for helps or hinders Hearts. “I don’t think it helps in any way,” the Australian responded. “No team or player goes into a game wanting to drop points or wanting to lose. That’s the beauty of football, anything can happen.”
Not a regular starter this season, Atkinson performed well as an inverted full-back and linked up nicely with Yutaro Oda down the right flank. They were part of a team that laid siege to Aberdeen’s goal, launching 31 shots at goal and dominating large parts of the match. It was a reminder of what this Hearts team, who are responding to caretaker boss Naismith’s methods, can be. Atkinson also believes the win puts the pressure right back on Aberdeen, once hunter but now very much the hunted.
"It’s a weird one, they’re ahead of us and we’re chasing them,” said Atkinson. “We looked at it as all the pressure is on them and with the way they set up that probably showed that. They sort of set up to focus on the way we wanted to play and we were just focusing on ourselves. I guess you could look at it either way, we don’t want to feel the pressure and I don’t think we showed that.
“They’ve got everything to lose now, they are in third and have the points in hand and there are two big games coming up for us and them and hopefully by the end of the season we can jump on top of them.”
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