Craig Halkett relishing the pressure of starring for Hearts after first taste of a tetchy Tynecastle

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CRAIG HALKETT got his first taste of a tetchy Tynecastle – before insisting that pressure is exactly why he joined the Jambos.

The Gorgie faithful made their feelings known on Wednesday night as the capital club narrowly avoided a humbling Betfred Cup defeat against League Two Stenhousemuir.

A cacophony of jeers rained down from the stands when Mark McGuigan gave the Warriors – living up to their nickname with a heroic defensive showing – a shock lead in Edinburgh.

The hosts had also been booed off at the half-time break when the score was level at 0-0.

However, Craig Levein’s side held their nerve and mounted a late comeback, with Halkett scoring twice in the last seven minutes to secure a stirring victory for Hearts.

Boss Levein praised his side’s perseverance on a largely frustrating night for the players and supporters alike – and the former Livingston captain believes the Jambos showed the fortitude required to pull on the maroon jersey.

Halkett said: “When there are so many blocks and saves, you maybe start to think it’s not your day – but when you play with a team like Hearts, you can’t let these things bother you.

“You’ve got to keep going to the final whistle and, more often than not, get the result which gets the fans back on your side.

“That [pressure] was fine. It’s expected. When you come to Hearts, you’re coming to one of the biggest clubs in Scotland.

“You’re expected to win the majority of games, so you’ve got to take it on your chin and get on with it.

“Wednesday was the first time I’ve felt a wee bit of the pressure but I’m not going to let that affect me. That’s exactly why I came here. This is the step-up in my career that I felt I needed and it was the perfect time to do that.

“I’m looking forward to getting the game on Saturday [East Fife] out of the way and getting the league started. That’s when the big pressure will start!”

Halkett has hit the ground running following his summer switch from Livi, with Levein joking that he has already emerged as an auxiliary striker for the Jambos.

The former Rangers youngster has now hit the net three times in two appearances for Hearts – leaving his pre-season aspiration of five goals looking rather modest.
Halkett is now tentatively targeting double-figures.

He continued: “Getting a couple of goals does help settle you in. Getting one on my first start for the club, then my home debut was massive.

“For a defender, you want to keep clean sheets and it was disappointing we didn’t do that the other night but if I can help in other ways by chipping in with goals at the other end then it’s pleasing.

“I do set a wee target at the start of the season. It’s five. I always want to get five and the last couple of the seasons I’ve done that. I got seven last year, then eight the year before – so if I can get that again I’ll be delighted.

“Double figures would be brilliant but my main aim has always been clean sheets and playing well defensively.”

Asked whether his eye for goal could give him the edge in the battle for a starting jersey with John Souttar and Christophe Berra, Halkett smiled: “You’ll need to ask the manager that one!”

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