'It's a place we like going' - Hearts relishing the chance to improve away form
While they have lost just two of their opening eight home games in the Premiership this term, they have won just two of the eight head-to-heads on the road.
Turning Tynecastle into a fortress is something the club is proud of but if they want to press on and secure a successive top three finish for the first time in almost 20 years, manager Robbie Neilson knows that away results are going to count. Especially with so many clubs in the top flight all fighting for something.
In Dundee United they come up against a team fighting for their Premiership survival. But buoyed by their own performance last weekend, when play resumed following the World Cup break, and heartened by the ongoing return of key players, there is a positivity in the Hearts ranks.
“I was pleased with last week,” explained Neilson, who will return to his former stomping ground to face a manager and an assistant manager he knows well, and look to exploit any chinks in the armour of players he helped develop. “You’re never sure what you’re going to get having a different break to what we are used to. So it was good to get the three points, it gave us a wee lift going into this game which is another opportunity.”
But things are tight and while they rolled over the top of the Tayside side at Tynecastle earlier this season as they romped to a comfortable 4-1 triumph, backing up the 5-2 win in the capital last term, the most recent meetings in Dundee have been trickier, with a draw and a narrow 3-2 victory.
“Dundee United are only 12 points off us and we are sitting in fourth. It’s quite tight, everyone can beat each other. If we can go on a sustained run of wins then it can take us away from everyone.
“We’ve had a couple of decent results up there previously and it’s a place we like going. We will take two and a half to three thousand up and hope to go and win the game.
“They’ve had some good results at home this season so it’s going to be tough but generally it’s been our form as well over recent years [that accounts for the discrepancy between the home and away results]. Home games have been comfortable and it’s the away games we need to improve in. This Saturday’s a chance to do that.”
After the Tannadice trip there is an even bigger test against St Johnstone, a team they have not beaten in Perth on league duty since 2010. Then they have the capital derby.
“The derby is massive for us but we need to get through these two games first and put ourselves in a good position. Not just in the league but mentality wise and positivity wise.
“It’s been a long time since Hearts have finished back-to-back third. It was 2002-03 and 2003-04 the last time we did. So it’s a difficult task.”
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