BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HEARTS stalwart Don Cowie has laughed off talk of a crisis at Tynecastle – because they have supposedly already been through one this season.
The former Scotland internationalist reckons the reaction to a four-game winless streak is indicative of the high standards set by Robbie Neilson, but is adamant there is no panic in the dressing room.
There was similar dissent among some supporters when Hearts crashed out of the Europa League at the hands of Maltese minnows Birkirkara in July before failing to win any of their first three domestic fixtures.
“I remember speaking after three games this season and it was a crisis then,” he smiled. “But then we went on a good run and we have shown we’re willing to face the fight.
“It’s a big game this weekend, we’re back at home and our home form has been decent. Hopefully we can get three points against Motherwell and get back on track because we have a busy December coming up.
“I’m not going to hide the fact that this has been a run of games where a club like Hearts goes in expecting to win. To not win any is disappointing.
“On the positive side, we’re showing a good togetherness. We’re going behind in matches and we’re getting back into it late. That shows a lot about our squad but it’s important we start winning games.”
Indeed, while Hearts have shipped 10 goals in their last four fixtures, they are finding the net at will – a criticism of Neilson’s men earlier in the campaign – and are second top scorers in the Premiership.
Despite Hearts’ striking pool of Bjorn Johnsen, Tony Watt, Connor Sammon and Robbie Muirhead having only found the net four times this term, the Jambos’ tally of 24 for the campaign is second only to Celtic.
“A lot gets made of our strikers not scoring but to be second-top scorers in the league suggests we are doing something right in the last third,” continued Cowie.
“If we can keep that going and get back to what we were four games ago – being hard to score against – then we will be a formidable opponent.
“Up until the last four games, we had the best defensive record in the league. That shows we’ve got something to work with. The manner of the goals we’ve lost has been disappointing.
“The ones we’re conceding are sloppy. That’s something we need to rectify and get back to being strong at the back.”
A “mouth-watering” four days then sees Hearts welcome Rangers to Tynecastle on Wednesday evening as the sides, along with Aberdeen, battle to be crowned best-of-the-rest.
“If we get the three points against Motherwell, we get confidence going into a big game on Wednesday,” added Cowie. “Rangers will look at it the same way. It’s a chance for them to put a marker down.
“We’ve not played each other this season so far. It’ll be a real mouth-watering match.”