Hearts left Murrayfield for the final time yesterday with a warning from Craig Levein ringing in their ears: it won’t matter where they are playing if they perform as badly as during the defeat by Kilmarnock.
Levein’s side fell to a winner from teenage substitute Adam Frizzell. Esmael Goncalves had struck ten minutes earlier to cancel out Kris Boyd’s first-half opener.
It means Hearts and their fans are viewing with some relief their return to Tynecastle on Sunday 19 November, when Partick are the visitors.
Hearts will hope they can stem a run of three consecutive defeats but Levein has stressed that nothing is guaranteed just because they will be back in familiar surroundings.
“If we play like we did in the first half, going back to Tynecastle won’t help us one bit,” said the manager. “But I do think we’ll get four players back, at least four, for the next match.”
Hearts were missing injured first-team regulars Jamie Walker, Aaron Hughes, Prince Buaben and Arnaud Djoum.
Levein revealed Hughes, who has been out with an Achilles injury, has been advised to miss the first leg of Northern Ireland’s World Cup play-off against Switzerland on Thursday. He should be available for the second leg in Basel on Sunday. “He’s an experienced player and he’ll know how to handle it,” said Levein. “Him getting a game in the second leg actually might help us.”
The manager is concerned only for Hearts. They aim to get back to winning ways against Partick Thistle a week on Sunday, when Tynecastle’s new 7,200-capacity main stand will open.
“Getting back to Tynecastle will enable us to feel a bit of home comfort, which is something we’ve been missing,” he said.
Elaborating on this theme, the manager added: “It just feels better. It’s where we’re used to playing. Historically, we’ve picked up most of our points there. It will help us. I just think it’s like you guys going home at night, walking in the door and thinking: ‘Ah, this feels good’.
“That’s what Tynecastle is like for us. You feel relaxed and more comfortable in your own environment. We haven’t had that. Thankfully we’re nearly back. Mind you, if we play like we did in the first half, it won’t make any difference.”
Boyd enjoyed his first experience of Murrayfield, scoring a goal in trademark, opportunistic fashion before goading the home fans by gesturing to his stomach after their criticism of his physical condition.
At 34, Boyd is still proving a valuable asset for Kilmarnock. He was on the receiving end of flak from Hearts fans last December after questioning then head coach Ian Cathro’s appointment in the media.
“When you give it out you have to take it back,” he said. “I’ve said it umpteen times that football is too serious, and you can’t have a bit of banter with fans. Credit to the referee [Kevin Clancy] for not booking me because the last time I did something like that I did get booked.
“It is not all doom and gloom with the refs and it is a fantastic three points for us. The last time I was through here, obviously not Murrayfield, I took a bit of stick but in football you always have an opportunity to have a go back.
“Credit to the Hearts fans, they had a laugh the last time, but I will leave here with the big smile today.”