The 0-0 draw with third-placed Kilmarnock means Heckingbottom remains unbeaten in the league since taking over from Neil Lennon in mid-February and the Easter Road head coach said his men deserve a massive pat on the back for finding form in time to break into the top half of the Premiership table.
“We build on that now, put it in the bank and move forward. I want the players focused on pushing to get better every day. That’s the only way we’ll get where we want to be. “If we had not got top six, and I haven’t shared this before, I wouldn’t have known too much about the players. From a development point and getting better, I wanted to play the top teams again.
“We’ve got Hearts twice then every other game will be against a top side. That’s what I want. Next year, we want to be competing against those sides so let’s see where we are now. Form suggests we’re right up with them. But let’s see.”
For a well-organised Kilmarnock side, who tested their hosts on the break, it was a missed opportunity to keep the pressure on Rangers and keep Aberdeen at arm’s length.
“It’s always hard to come here so it’s a good point,” said Kilmarnock assistant manager Alex Dyer. “We created a lot of chances and could have won so we are disappointed that we haven’t won the game.
“We dominated most of the game and I think on a different night we would have scored a few goals. Our final ball sometimes let us down but, overall, we’re happy with the draw.”
They were also foiled by a superb second-half save from home keeper Ofir Marciano, who was hailed for producing the goods when it mattered.
“It was a really good save from Ofir,” said Heckingbottom. That was a moment when I feared the worst. But it was a save, it didn’t hit him. He got a strong hand up and made the save. Those moments win games.”