Hearts V Kilmarnock at Tynecastle Stadium : Match Preview

24 December 2013 03:01
Hearts V Kilmarnock - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Locke hoping to find key to success

Gary Locke has promised Hearts fans they will see a Jambos side with a more positive attitude when they face Kilmarnock at Tynecastle on Boxing Day.

The Gorgie boss had no qualms with adopting a defensive mindset to take on Celtic at Parkhead on Saturday following their 7-0 thrashing by the Hoops in the Scottish Cup at the start of the month.

The Scottish Premiership's bottom side left Glasgow with confidence intact despite a 2-0 defeat but Locke will ensure his side go looking for goals against Killie.

"Thursday is completely different because we are playing at home so we owe it to the fans to go and try to win the game," he said.

"We have to do that anyway because we need the points.

"So it will certainly be a different Hearts performance, we can't just sit back, we have to have a go.

"With being the home team it is up to us to break Kilmarnock down.

"On Saturday, we showed that we learned from the last time we played Celtic.

"I am not happy because we lost but there were a lot of positives to take from the game.

"We were well organised and limited Celtic to few chances.

"It is not the way I want Hearts to play but you have to be realistic.

"With the injuries we had and the strength of the squad, we could only have four outfield players on the bench but the boys battled well."

Locke pinpointed Killie striker Kris Boyd as the biggest danger to his side.

The former Rangers and Middlesbrough player, 30, scored a double when Hearts lost 2-0 at Rugby Park in October and he took his tally for the season to nine on Saturday with a goal in the 2-1 home win over Partick Thistle.

Locke said: "It will be a difficult game, Kilmarnock are coming off the back of a good win and we will have to be on our toes.

"The last time down there, Kris Boyd punished our two mistakes so we know how dangerous he can be.

"He has that instinct. When the ball comes in the box he will stick a leg out or stick his head out.

"He is a natural goalscorer and every team in the league would be over the moon to have someone like Kris Boyd in their team.

"But it is about us. We have to concentrate on ourselves and hopefully if we can put in a similar performance to the weekend in terms of organisation and commitment, and hopefully get a few more bodies forward, then hopefully we can cause them a few problems."

After being docked 15 points and banned from signing players for descending into administration, there is little surprise that the Tynecastle side are adrift at the bottom of the table, on minus three points, 14 behind second-bottom Ross County.

However, midfielder Callum Tapping is confident that relegation can be avoided.

He said: "I still think we can do it, Definitely, 100 per cent.

"The next six weeks will be a big period for us, we need to start eating into the points (gap) of teams who are near to us in the table and who are catchable."

Hearts have will not be able to fill their bench for the Boxing Day clash as their thin squad continues to be pushed to the limit.

Gary Oliver (ankle), Ryan Stevenson (hamstring), Mark Ridgers (knee), Jason Holt (foot) and Scott Robinson (groin) remain on the sidelines but Danny Wilson will play through a shin splints problem.

Hearts boss Gary Locke revealed he would be able to select only five of the seven substitutes allowed.

Kilmarnock boss Allan Johnston believes Boyd can be the difference between his side climbing up the Scottish Premiership and languishing with the top flight's also-rans.

The Rugby Park side are in the midst of a four-game winning run against sides struggling beside them in the bottom six.

They got off to the perfect start when former Rangers frontman Boyd grabbed the crucial winner against Partick Thistle on Saturday as they pinched the Jags' spot in ninth place with a 2-1 win.

They now face Hearts at Tynecastle on Boxing Day before a second trip to the capital on Sunday to play Hibernian.

St Mirren will visit Ayrshire on January 2 and by the end of that run, Johnston hopes to see his men inching themselves away from the administration-hit Jambos - still stuck on minus three points at the bottom of the table - and up towards the top half.

And the former Queen of the South manager says nine-goal poacher Boyd, 30, is the man to lead that charge.

He said: "This is a really important point in our season with so many big games coming up. That's why it was good to win the first one against Partick.

"That made it two wins out of three for us and we're on a bit of a high right now.

"Thursday will be a hard game for us because Hearts will be desperate for a win, but one thing that is guaranteed with us and that is that we will score.

"When you've got the likes of Kris Boyd up front and the other attacking options we have, we are always likely to score goals.

"Having Kris there with the goals he has got us is a massive advantage compared to the other sides round about us. If you have got a top-quality striker like we do, it can make the difference.

"So we just need to make sure that defensively we keep it tight."

That is easier said than done, though, for a Killie side who have failed to keep a clean sheet away from home all season.

And Johnston has warned his players they will have to keep a cool head as they run out in front of a Gorgie crowd whose fervent backing has been essential to keeping Gary Locke's Hearts team going since their financial implosion last summer.

But he knows emotions will be especially high following the tragic death of former Jambos youth player Jamie Skinner, who passed away on Sunday while playing in an Under-14s match for Tynecastle FC.

Johnston played for the same club himself as a youth and said: "I started out at Tynecastle when I was 16. My assistant here at Killie, Sandy Clark, was actually my reserve team manager then and went on to give me my first-team debut for Hearts.

"Gary Locke and I came through the youth system together at Tynecastle too, so you can see what a successful set-up they have.

"But it is such a shame after what happened at the weekend with the young lad.

"It will be an emotional day on Thursday, but what is so great about the Hearts support is that they always get right behind the team, especially in circumstances like that."

Reuben Gabriel will be missing again for Kilmarnock after the Nigerian forward picked up a ankle injury in training.

The Super Eagles international was suspended for last weekend's 2-1 win over Partick and will be unavailable again for the Scottish Premiership trip to Tynecastle.

Also missing Thursday's match will be David Silva after he picked up a knock, and long-term injury victims Ismael Bouzid (knee) and James Fowler (ankle).

Source: PA

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