Hearts midfielder Jamie Walker insists the battle for fourth place is now more intense after Hibs’ Scottish Cup exit opened up a route into the Europa League.
City rivals Hibs’ semi-final defeat to Aberdeen on Saturday has ensured that finishing in that position will guarantee a place in Europe next season.
St Johnstone are currently in the driving seat ahead of the start of the five post-split fixtures after opening up a four point lead over the fifth place Gorgie outfit, who host Patrick Thistle on Saturday.
Walker was part of the side that defeated Estonian outfit Infonet before being beaten by Maltaese minnows Birkirkara in the second qualifying round of last term’s Europa League and the 23-year-old is desperate to sample more competitive football at that level.
Speaking to Hearts TV, he said: “We’ve got five big games and hopefully we can push for the European spot. It’s massive for a club like Hearts to be pushing for a European spot.
“You want to be playing in those big games at Tynecastle in the Europa League.
“It’s the last five games to go, everyone is pushing and working hard and hopefully we can that fourth spot.”
Walker has shone during a season that has been largely disappointing for Hearts and his form was recognised at the club’s annual awards night on Sunday after he was named Fans and Players’ Player of the Year.
The playmaker admits he is over the moon to be acknowledged by both the supporters and his team-mates.
He added: “I’m delighted, to be nominated for the award by the people that you go to work with everyday, that you train with and play with on a Saturday, I’m over the moon and I’m delighted to win the two awards.
“It’s tremendous to win the award voted for by the fans, it’s an honour for me as a Hearts fan myself.
“I’m delighted, we’ve got another big five games to go and we’re looking forward to them.”
Walker, however, admits he is desperate to add to his goals tally in the remaining five matches.
He added: “I’ve been on 15 goals for quite a few games now although I’ve kind of gone off the boil with my form a little bit.”
Injured defender Callum Paterson was also recognised at the club’s award bash after being named Overall Young Player of the Year and winning the Goal of the Season award for his strike against Motherwell last September.
Midfielder Arnaud Djoum received the Special Recognition award after winning the Africa Cup of Nations with Cameroon in February.