Saturday proved the same old story for Hearts, a 3-1 defeat to Rangers at Tynecastle in which the Jambos were second best. It was a performance containing cheap goals to concede, no real Plan B and making it easy for their visitors. With a Scottish Cup final looming, the Jambos will be looking to build momentum before their showpiece with Celtic at Hampden Park.
So why can they not do so at the minute?
Fans may be quick to point out injuries, most notably to Steven Naismith and Peter Haring, but that excuse can only serve you so long. You know players are going to get injured, football’s a contact sport. Perhaps money wasted on players such as Malaury Martin, Conor Sammon and Ryan Edwards over the past few seasons could’ve benefitted the Jambos elsewhere.
The Rangers performance saw the Jambos sit off Gerrard’s Gers without any real intent to press. Daniel Candeias and Scott Arfield were fairly narrow in support of goalscorer Jermain Defoe. This saw Hearts pull out and leave gaps for James Tavernier, in particular, to exploit. All it took was a couple Rangers one-twos before they found themselves in serious space to hurt Hearts.
Maroon shirts were busy chasing shadows instead. The first two goals are carbon copies of one another. They begin with a cheap surrendering of possession in the middle of the park. This has a knock-on effect leading to Rangers making the most of a numerical advantage in attack before finishing it off routinely. The fact that Hearts also lost the third goal to a set-piece is bound to be another bugbear for Craig Levein.
Frightening fixtures to come
Next up is an Edinburgh derby at Easter Road. Whilst Hearts may have won in the last meeting there, they faced a Hibs side in far worse shape than they are now. A home fixture with Killie follows before a daunting away double header to Aberdeen and Celtic in a dress rehearsal of the cup final.
Fans may be quick to write off the league fixtures and place all their eggs in the Scottish Cup basket. After all, whilst they’ll need a miracle to beat Celtic with the way they’re playing at the minute, anything can happen in football.
They’re more likely to gain success in a one-off match than in the four remaining league games.