Hearts must take more chances to justify risk strategy says Craig Halkett

A high stakes game of risk and reward, Craig Halkett acknowledges the tightrope he and his Hearts colleagues are walking these days as they try to implement manager Daniel Stendel’s preferred style of play.

Craig Halketts late goal for Hearts against Kilmarnock was not enough to rescue a point. Picture: SNS.
Craig Halketts late goal for Hearts against Kilmarnock was not enough to rescue a point. Picture: SNS.

A high pressing game that can up the percentage of chances created, it also leaves players such as Halkett and his centre-back partner John Souttar more exposed and vulnerable as opponents exploit the space left in behind the advancing full-backs and their attacking team-mates.

It means that games are rarely likely to be dull but the openness also means that the Gorgie defenders are going to find clean sheets harder to come by.

The pain of that can be offset by a more plentiful points return but, for that to happen, the attack will have to prove more clinical and convert more chances than they did against Kilmarnock on Wednesday evening.

“I thought we dominated for the first 15-20 minutes but at that stage you need to take advantage and get a goal, if not two,” said Halkett. “That would have changed the way the opposition thinks. Instead, Kilmarnock get the opening goal against the run of play and it changes their whole mindset in another way. They pick up confidence and it dents ours.

“After the second goal you think ‘let’s get the first goal after the break’ – then a third one goes in. It’s a mountain to climb after that.

“But it’s a credit to the boys that we kept going to the final whistle and got a couple of goals back. We just fell short.”

Unaided by some poor goalkeeping behind them and below-par performances by normally reliable contributors ahead of them, Halkett took matters into his own hands, adding the second goal, in a cavalry charge in the final minutes, Hearts closed the the gap. Although they ran out of time to complete that comeback and grab a share of the spoils, that late demonstration of character is a positive the Gorgie side can take into tomorrow’s Scottish Cup tie against Falkirk, according to the defender, as they get some temporary respite from the Premiership relegation battle and get to dream of a silver lining to their tumultuous season.

But he knows the current strategy is risky and says the aim is to find a way to tip the balance in their favour.

“We are going to concede goals with the way we play, but it’s evident that we are creating a lot more chances,” added Halkett. “If we can just get that first goal in a game it’ll make it a hell of a lot easier for us.

“It’s different from what we played before at Hearts, and anything I have played before in previous years, but we are getting used to it. It is harder for defenders and we’ll have more one-on-one situations but, with me and John [Souttar], he is confident that we can go and deal with things. That is a bit of pressure on our shoulders but we are happy to take that on.

“It’s nice to keep a clean sheet and, as a defender, you will always do your best to keep goals to a minimum but if there are days when you concede two or three goals but can score three or four, that’s all that matters.”