Christophe Berra searching for two big wins to turn tide at Hearts

Christophe Berra took a fearsome free-kick to the face on Saturday but judging by his post-match demeanour, it did not sting as much as the dropped points nor substandard performance served up by the Hearts captain and his team-mates against ?St Mirren.
Peter Haring comes close to scoring for Hearts during their 1-1 draw with St Mirren at Tynecastle on Saturday. Picture: SNS.Peter Haring comes close to scoring for Hearts during their 1-1 draw with St Mirren at Tynecastle on Saturday. Picture: SNS.
Peter Haring comes close to scoring for Hearts during their 1-1 draw with St Mirren at Tynecastle on Saturday. Picture: SNS.

Frustrated and struggling to find answers as to why things have not been clicking in recent weeks, he stressed that he has been in football long enough to know that if they can somehow manage to turn things around against Celtic on Wednesday and then follow that up with a victory over Partick Thistle next Monday, to book a place in the semi-finals of the country’s premier cup competition, the current mood will quickly be lifted. especially if the team can build on that and recapture the form and the consistency of results they enjoyed at the start of the campaign.

“Yes, that’s football. It changes so quickly,” he said. “We were on a poor run but when we won at Easter Road everything was forgotten about. Football is a week-by-week job and if we get a win on Wednesday against Celtic and get into the Scottish Cup semi-final then it’s totally different. There’s very few teams in the world who are always on a high. There are ups and downs in sports and that will never change.”

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But the quandary is how the Tynecastle side can elevate their standards and turn Saturday’s abject display into the kind of performance worthy of bettering the best in the league and then earning a spot in the final four of the Scottish Cup.

The manager and the coaching staff will be looking for answers but Berra says he is also the kind of player who will pore over it all in his mind.

“Football can be a frustrating sport,” said the former Wolves and Ipswich defender, pictured. “The older you get, the more you go home and analyse games. You’re critical of yourself and the team. You think, ‘should we have done this or that in the game?’

“I’ve always done it but when you are younger maybe you think about yourself a bit more, and you want to do individually well. But the older you get, it is all about the team.

“You want to be part of a winning team. I’m always analysing things now. I’ll be at home thinking about it and my missus will say to me, ‘are you daydreaming?’ and I’ll just say ‘aye’. I am very critical of myself – it can be a good thing or a bad thing – but maybe I can be a bit harsh on myself. But I just want the best for us. I want us to play consistently week in, week out as a team.

“We started the season fine but there’s been many a team who has done that and then other teams figure them out. We’ve got to do what we’ve done in the past and if we do that we’ve got a chance. You can’t be using injuries or things like that as an excuse.”

Fortune as well as form has deserted them, while the dogged persistence of teams who are battling for Premiership survival is proving a nuisance to a team who have stopped moving the ball about quickly enough, forgotten some of the intelligent link-up play and found themselves thwarted by their own sloppiness as well as well-drilled opponents when they try to get down the flanks and whip in the kind of dangerous crosses that served them well earlier in the season.

On Saturday, it was St Mirren, buoyed by the well-earned point on the road to Aberdeen in their previous match, who set the tempo and looked the hungrier and more 
cohesive unit.

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For all that, Zdenek Zlamal did not have much work to do in the home goal, his most difficult save ironically forced by a sclaffed clearance by his own team-mate Clevid Dikamona.

His opposite number, Vaclav Hladky was the busier, pulling off a stunning multiple save as first Dikamona, then Berra, followed by Olly Lee and then Peter Haring all tried to find the net as the ball ricocheted around the box and the Paisley keeper proved 

Minutes before that Dikamona almost gifted the guests a penalty when he felled Duckens Nazon on the marked perimeter. He admitted afterwards that the coming together occurred on the line but the referee said it was just outside and awarded an ultimately fruitless free-kick instead. The Congolese defender made a more positive contribution in the 55th minute when he opened the scoring, heading Lee’s corner 
past Hladky .

But for all of St Mirren’s prodding and determination, which all suggests they are a long way from giving up on avoiding the drop, it was Hearts who let them back into the game and allowed them a share of the points.

A delightful, mazy, jinking run by Sean Clare in the first half had been one of Hearts’ few highlights but the player was distraught as his unintentional 66th minute contribution proved more pertinent, when Kyle McAllister’s corner ended up in the net, having come off the young Englishman last.

It summed up Hearts’ afternoon and only served to fuel their frustration.