BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
IAN CATHRO hopes to reap the benefits from the St Johnstone brawl that shocked Scottish football after admitting the absence of Danny Swanson and Richard Foster is a welcome boost for Hearts.
The Saints sinners will be absent for tonight’s crunch Premiership clash in the race for Europe after they became embroiled in an astonishing fracas during Saturday’s 1-0 defeat against Hamilton.
Both players have been suspended pending an investigation, albeit that process will be hindered by a lack of video evidence.
Cathro was acutely aware of the incident but admits his only thought was how that would affect Tommy Wright’s line-up for the encounter in Perth – and he is delighted they will be without two key men.
“To be honest, all I looked into was what the sending off meant for us – two players are out of the game who are good players, who have been important players in the St Johnstone team,” said Cathro. “The fact they can’t play? That’s all right for us!
“From St Johnstone’s perspective, I can see the argument for both sides – it could help them or hinder them but that’s not particularly prominent in my mind.
“What has changed is there are now players unavailable for the game and that’s the only bit that 100 per cent affects this game.”
Hearts head to Perth trailing St Johnstone by two points, with fourth-place set to be the final Europa League berth, providing one of Celtic, Aberdeen or Rangers win the Scottish Cup.
And Cathro has nothing but admiration for the consistency displayed by the Saints.
“The biggest success of St Johnstone over many years is they are organised, things are clear to them and they are very experienced,” Cathro continued. “They are good at managing their way through games in this league and, for that reason, everyone is going to face a tough game against them, home or away.
“There are a number of reasons why this will be a difficult game and for us this is a very important game.”
Cathro, who confirmed that Aaron Hughes and Arnaud Djoum are set to be sidelined tonight, believes Hearts should draw confidence from a bright first-half display against Celtic on Sunday, contending that they went “toe-to-toe” with Celtic before a late collapse saw them battered 5-0.
Hearts have now won five matches from 18 under Cathro, yet he can see silver linings from another bruising afternoon in Gorgie.
“What I mean when I say we ‘competed’ is that in the first half – looking at the way some teams typically go to play against Celtic – we went with an attitude of ‘no, we are going to play and win the game’,” said Cathro.
“So we went toe-to-toe and played against them. Nobody in the land can tell me we were inferior in the first 45 minutes. I’m not having it.
“Let’s be clear: I’m not passing comment on a 5-0 defeat as a whole and saying we competed. I know they scored five against us. But if we assessed what happened in the period when the game was there and alive, I can’t allow anyone to say we were inferior.”
Nevertheless, having once again capitulated after a bright start to a fixture, Cathro has urged his Jambos to prove to any doubters that the do have a backbone when the chips are down.
Asked whether resilience is a concern, Cathro said: “It is difficult to argue with that, so, without necessarily agreeing, it is difficult to argue against that being the case.
“The only way that can be answered is when those moments happen – that will be something that is a challenge for us. Rather than having the urge to talk around it, I can say that is a fair point and, until the team proves otherwise, that point will remain fair.”