Hearts midfielder Cammy Devlin is relishing a high-stakes finale to the season as Hearts aim to continue hunting down Aberdeen and secure European group-stage football.
The Jambos pulled off a potentially huge victory over the Dons on Saturday to cut the gap between the teams from five points to two in the battle for third place in the cinch Premiership.
Hearts travel to Rangers on Wednesday and host city rivals Hibernian on Saturday, while the Dons welcome St Mirren before finishing away to Celtic.
Devlin knows it will be a “special” ending to the season if his side can pip the Reds and secure third place – and the financial and European rewards that go with it – for the second year running.
“Being a professional footballer you want to play in the big pressure games,” said the Australia international. “For all of us being fortunate enough to be at a club like Hearts, that pressure is normal.
“It’s about building yourself up for the games and being up for it, and there’s no excuses for not being up for it.
“On Saturday, as individuals and as a team, we showed we are up for it. We’ve got massive games coming up and it could be very special, but we’ve just got to control what we can control and hopefully make that happen.”
Devlin is adamant Hearts never gave up hope of finishing third even though Aberdeen, who won eight games out of nine before the split, seemed to be marching clear in recent months.
“I don’t think we’ve ever taken our mind off third,” he said. “That’s where we know we need to be. Obviously there was a period there where we as players weren’t good enough, but I think you can see now where we want to be.
“We look like we’re turning it around. Saturday was a massive result and it showed how hungry we are to give back to the people who pay to come and watch us home and away, and hopefully we can finish that off in the last two games.”
Hearts had 30 goal attempts against Aberdeen and 38 in their recent 6-1 victory over Ross County.
Devlin has enjoyed the “front-foot” football Steven Naismith has encouraged since being appointed interim manager in April and the midfielder feels that approach is essential for Wednesday’s match with Rangers at Ibrox, a venue at which the Jambos have not won in nine years.
“We’ve found it tough against Rangers, they are a very good team, there’s no shying away from that,” said Devlin.
“But since Naisy’s come in we’ve changed a few things. A few results haven’t been ideal, but I think the football we’ve been playing has been attractive to watch and as a player it’s enjoyable to be playing attacking football on the front foot.
“The defensive side of it is so important (at Ibrox), but we need to go and score more goals than them.
“Naisy won’t want to set us up defensively because that’s not the coach he is and (assistants) Frankie (McAvoy) and Gordy (Gordon Forrest) aren’t like that.
“As players you never want to sit back on your box inviting pressure, that’s not enjoyable for any player, so we certainly won’t be doing that.
“Naisy wants us to play attacking football and take any opportunity to go forward and put pressure on the opponent. He’s instilling that into the players and I think it’s showing.”
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