Lawrence Shankland has warned his Hearts colleagues they must banish their “slack” display against Rangers and swiftly embark on another run of form.
The Jambos were unbeaten in 10 matches and had high hopes of causing an upset against the Ibrox side on Wednesday.
However, they were emphatically swatted aside as Rangers ran out 3-0 winners, and captain Shankland has called for an instant response at home to Dundee United on Saturday.
“We were on a good run going into the game, 10 unbeaten, so we went in with confidence,” he said. “Hearts v Rangers at Tynecastle is always a tough fixture, but we weren’t good enough to get anything out of the game.
“We’ve been on a good run and doing well. When you come into these games in that form you want to bring your peak performance and I don’t think we did that.
“It’s done now, there’s nothing we can do about it. We had a good run since coming back from the World Cup and we just need to start again on Saturday. If we can replicate that run then, come the end of the season, I’m sure we will be in a good position.”
Robbie Neilson has come under fire from supporters since Wednesday’s match for switching to a 3-5-2 formation with a midfield featuring two attacking players (Barrie McKay and Garang Kuol) and no natural enforcer. The Jambos were overrun from the first whistle, prompting Hearts to revert to 4-2-3-1 after half an hour.
“I wasn’t surprised, no,” said Shankland, when asked if he was surprised how many attackers were in the line-up. “We were at home and needed to take the game to Rangers.
“It was a game we were all looking forward to and we looked to try and attack. But on the night our overall play was slack and we were punished for it.”
Shankland, who was supposed to be playing up front, spent much of Wednesday’s match dropping into his own half to help his team. He felt this was down to a combination of his own side’s inability to keep the ball and Rangers’ aggressive approach.
“It was probably due to how poor we were in possession and Rangers were pressing us really high as well,” he explained.
“They kept getting turnovers and hemmed us in at points. That was disappointing and we struggled to get out.”