Hearts reaction: Edinburgh derby dilemma, Neilson's defiant gesture, St Mirren star, Forever 15 tribute

Tynecastle Park was an interesting place on Saturday afternoon as Hearts fell to a fifth successive defeat, losing 2-0 to St Mirren and their place in third in the process. Joel Sked looks back at the encounter.

Stick or twist

The Hearts hierarchy are left with a big decision to make regarding the management team. Many fans made their feelings clear, chanting for him to go. There will still be others who believe he should be given the rest of the season. This time is different to the plane episode or that terrible week when the team lost to Brora Rangers in the Scottish Cup then Queen of the South in the league. Hearts have been in a slump. And it’s not just been this run of six defeats in seven. It’s been longer, only in the last seven weeks, results have started to match performances. Hearts fans simply haven’t enjoyed watching their team play football and at the moment it is difficult to see where the bounce needed to regain third is coming from. Yet, the Edinburgh derby is the ideal fixture for Neilson. Whatever is going on, a game against Hibs puts things to the side. Since returning, he’s unbeaten in eight, including two back-to-back 3-0 defeats. It will be a very interesting week down Gorgie way.

Neilson's defiance

There was a moment in Neilson’s first spell as Hearts manager where you could anticipate boos from the Hearts crowd. In a 3-3 draw with Inverness CT in the Highlands the ball rolled to the sidelines and he went to get it to try and get his team moving quickly. It was greeted with boos from the away crowd. There was a similar situation at Tynecastle Park on Saturday. As the full-time whistle went, Neilson strode onto the pitch to shake hands with his players, opposition players and the referee. When in the centre circle, he clapped the fans. The reaction was as expected from those left in the ground. Loud boos, perhaps the loudest of the day. It may well have been a defiant move. ‘I’m here, I’m fronting up, I'm not hiding’. It wasn't the same for a number of Hearts players, both during the game and after the match.

Hearts identity

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Once again, Hearts had significantly more accurate passes in their own half than the opposition half, 237 to 140. You don't need the ball to beat Hearts. You don’t even need to use it all that well. St Mirren's passing accuracy was 59 per cent but they got the ball into areas where Hearts are soft and they laid traps, waiting to pinch the ball of the Tynecastle team. The style of play, it is one which isn't working. And certainly not one fans of the team want to watch. They want the game played in the opposition half. They want the game played quickly and directly. Not slow and laborious in their own half.

St Mirren collective

It could be an interesting week at Tynecastle Park.  (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)It could be an interesting week at Tynecastle Park.  (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
It could be an interesting week at Tynecastle Park. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

It is difficult to single out individual players at St Mirren because their success is built on the collective, everyone working together and doing their job. It has helped them have the third best defence in the league, aided by one of the best performing goalkeepers in Trevor Carson. If one player misses out there is someone to fill in and when they do they know exactly what is required of them. Take Joe Shaughnessy, for example. In and out the team, he strolled it against Hearts. Then there is Curtis Main. A battering ram of a forward but ideal for St Mirren. Pressure, work rate, a runner of lost causes, an out ball. He has been phenomenal. Seven goals and five assists, he could hit double figures for only the second time in his career. If he does, the Buddies could be looking at a European tour.

The important thing

It’s such a sad thing to be writing about. Andrew MacKinnon was a massive Jambo, a massive football fan. The 15-year-old played for one of the most esteemed youth teams in the Capital in Salvesen and, perhaps more than anything, he loved following the Hearts. Not just following the team but being amongst the noise, amongst the Gorgie Ultras. His whole life ahead of him, a teenager just living the dream of going to the game with pals, having fun, watching the team he loved and was so passionate about. He died recently, just 15, playing football. No family, no friends should have to deal with such a horrific and painful situation. In the 15th minute, with his family in the directors’ box, Tynecastle Park stood as one to pay tribute to one of their own. ‘Forever 15’ was the message on a banner displayed by fans. Just as it was by Hibs fans the previous week who paid their own tribute. It puts the nonsense on the pitch, all talk about Robbie Neilson into perspective. Andrew MacKinnon. Forever 15.



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