'˜We must deliver at Tynecastle' says Hearts Christophe Berra
After a peripatetic first four and a half months of the season, in which they reversed three of their scheduled home fixtures and played four of them at Murrayfield, Hearts returned to the revamped Gorgie ground on Sunday.
The 1-1 draw with Partick Thistle was not the start they had hoped for as they attempt to inject some winning consistency into their season.
Craig Levein’s side now head into a run of five consecutive Premiership fixtures at Tynecastle – a total of six of their next seven games are at home – and Berra, pictured, knows the focus is firmly on them to match the progress being made off the pitch with improved performances on it.
“It’s going to put pressure on us,” said the big defender. “There’s always pressure no matter what club you play for, but especially at Hearts where you are seen as one of the top four clubs in the country. There’s pressure to deliver.
“Hopefully this run of home games means the players will get used to their surroundings. It’s difficult to have 13 or 14 away games in a row, which we effectively had this season. Murrayfield is technically an away game and you could tell the difference in atmosphere. Even in the warm-up at Tynecastle, the fans are closer to the pitch.
“We just had to grind it out for the past few months. We’ve done that, we’ve got 16 points now and the ball is in our court to take advantage of that run of home games. Teams will come here wanting points but we have the right management and players to get the results we want.
“Tynecastle can be a hostile place. When you’re winning it’s a great place but when you’re not playing so well and winning the matches people expect the fans won’t be happy. Especially here, the fans have expectations and they have every right to have them. You just have to deal with it, be a certain type of player and get on with it.”
While many of the finishing touches to the main stand, including the dressing rooms, have still to be completed, Berra was impressed by the new-look stadium on Sunday.
“You can see it’s really nice,” he added. “There are still things to be done inside but you can see the facilities are a lot better than you are used to at Tynecastle.
“ It’s a great stadium, makes the atmosphere better and when all guns are firing on the pitch, it’ll be an amazing place.
“They are still building the new dressing rooms but even the temporary ones in the opposite stand are better than the old Tynecastle main stand ones!
“I’ll miss the history of the old ground a bit. A lot of people were brought up with the old stand; I made my debut with it.
“But times move on and this is the future. We weren’t always certain to stay here but we definitely are now. It’s one of the best stadiums in Scotland and it’s a great place to play.”
Like his manager, Berra was left frustrated by the nature of Kris Doolan’s late equaliser for Thistle on Sunday after Esmael Goncalves had given Hearts the lead.
“Thistle had just that one chance and I didn’t know until after the game there was a handball and the guy who challenged for the ball in the box was clearly offside before they scored,” said Berra.
“I don’t know how the linesman doesn’t give it but we’ll need to move on. It’s just bitterly disappointing. You limit a team who usually create chances – Thistle play a good style of football and we have limited them to one scruffy chance and conceded from it. At the time, three of us said it was a handball.
“It was difficult for the referee to see it because there were a lot of players around it but we have the advantage of seeing it back later and he was a yard offside.”
But Berra believes there were some positive signs for Hearts over a largely forgettable 90 minutes.
“We have been chopping and changing the team this season but it was good to have Arnaud Djoum back and I also thought David Milinkovic played well, especially in the first half. He caused their right wing-back problems and maybe should have scored rather than set someone else up.
“We have this run of home games now and opposition teams have a different mentality. Playing away from home, they may sit in and suck it up a bit. Especially in the first half against Thistle, we were on the front foot but didn’t create many chances.
“Only time will tell how many points we can get over the next few games. At the moment we are not the team we were ten years ago. That comes down to finances but we still have a lot of good players.
“You could say the same of every team really apart from Celtic. Teams back in the day – you had Rangers, Aberdeen, even Dundee. But the finances aren’t there now, so players go down south.
“But we have some really good players and internationals and it’s down to us to put the performances on the pitch. Against Thistle I thought we played well, then in the second half they came into it a bit.
“We didn’t feel under pressure. There was a five-to-ten-minute spell when they had a couple of one-twos and there was a last-ditch tackle, but they had one scrappy shot on goal. We’d have been happy with that any day.
“But that’s football. You move on, sometimes you get the rub of the green, sometimes you don’t. You just need to take it on the chin.”