Austin MacPhee: Hearts blueprint for Celtic win won’t work every time

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Austin MacPhee admits Hearts might struggle to repeat their shock Celtic display against the rest of their rivals - especially if they have too much of the ball.

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The Hearts players are put through their paces at the Oriam ahead of the trip to face St Johnstone. Picture: SNS Group

The Hearts players are put through their paces at the Oriam ahead of the trip to face St Johnstone. Picture: SNS Group

The Jambos put on an incredible display of energy and ruthless finishing as they brought the Hoops’ 69-game unbeaten domestic streak to an end last Sunday.

Their stunning 4-0 triumph was built on a high-pressing game-plan boss Craig Levein and right-hand man MacPhee devised after watching Brendan Rodger’s side struggle against Champions League opponents Anderlecht.

But MacPhee has now confessed that blueprint will not work if they are the team forced to go on the front foot.

Levein’s number two said: “Football can be very different. Celtic give you the opportunity to press them because they build from the back.

Austin MacPhee has warned that the gameplan won't work in every game. Picture: SNS Group

Austin MacPhee has warned that the gameplan won't work in every game. Picture: SNS Group

“But you can’t press teams if they go over you or go round you.

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“In some games, of course Sunday’s display can be a template for how we can play, but in many games, especially at Tynecastle when Hearts are the dominant side with the ball, this approach won’t work.

“In order to press high up the pitch you need an opponent who want to always build from the back, which Brendan always wants to do, and you need to be without the ball.

“Craig commented after the game that we had used the template of Anderlecht. Then Scott Brown replied by saying he didn’t think we played like Anderlecht. And we didn’t play like Anderlecht with the ball.

“But we did without the ball. Many of the issues Anderlecht caused Celtic were when Celtic had the ball and were made to turn over possession in their own final third.”

Hearts will certainly have to adopt a different approach when they travel to St Johnstone on Saturday.

It is seven years since the Gorgie men last escaped Perth win a win but MacPhee believes the time is ripe to end that long wait after three straight wins.

“It was clear on Sunday that the players believed they could win,” said MacPhee. “The moment that defined that for me was straight after the first goal we won the ball back from Celtic immediately by going high up the pitch, very aggressively.

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“They believed in what we wanted to do by pressing the game very high and taking risks at the back.

“As a consequence, each time we scored it reinforced their confidence.

“However, now we move to St Johnstone and it won’t be a full house with the kind of atmosphere we had last weekend.

“We’ve not won there since November 2010, we’ve not win there in nine games. So in some ways it couldn’t be a better game for us.

“Clearly that fixture has caused numerous managers problems in the past and if you’re going to have confidence you want to take it into a game like that where you have a poor record.”

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