Locke: Lads deserve huge credit
Gary Locke has enjoyed watching his youthful Hearts side grow this season even though their recent good form has come too late to save them from relegation.
The Gorgie club started the season on minus 15 points as punishment for lapsing into administration and with a signing ban in place also, the drop down from the Scottish Premiership to the Championship was no real surprise.
However, the Tynecastle side have garnered 16 points from the last 18 available and had the points deduction not been imposed, they would currently be sitting in eighth place, a fact not lost to the Jambos boss.
Ahead of the visit of Partick Thistle on Wednesday night, he said: "With the 15 points we would have been safe at the moment so the boys here deserve enormous credit.
"I think that would have been a phenomenal achievement considering the youthfulness of the team and the fact that most of them hadn't played first-team football.
"It is all about the players and they have been a credit to themselves.
"It shows that they have improved over the course of the season.
"The reason we didn't play like this earlier in the season is that a lot of the boys weren't physically ready to play first-team football.
"The young players are fitter, stronger and confident and we have the experienced players available.
"Earlier in the season we lost Ryan (Stevenson) and that was a huge loss.
"I think we are a far better team, all the players have improved and that is credit to the backroom team here."
Hearts may already be down but they are having a say in who will finish in the relegation play-off spot.
Thistle sit in ninth place, two points ahead of 11th place Kilmarnock, and travel to Edinburgh unbeaten in three games with their last defeat coming at home to the Jambos last month.
Locke said: "Thistle are a really good side who play some terrific stuff.
"They have come up from the Championship and they look as if they are going to stay in the league.
"We have had some really tough games against them and we know it is going to be difficult."
Partick Thistle midfielder Gary Fraser is determined to repay the faith of manager Alan Archibald by helping keep the Jags in the Scottish Premiership.
The 19-year-old feared his Firhill career was over after he was hit with an eventual nine-match ban following a retaliatory clash with Dunfermline player Chris Kane during an under-20s game in October.
The former Hamilton player was on loan from Bolton at the time, but Archibald signed him on a permanent deal in January after the suspension expired.
Fraser has worked his way back into the team and now has his sights set on clinching the victory that would secure Thistle's top-flight safety when they play Hearts at Tynecastle on Wednesday night.
"The gaffer and Scotty (assistant manager Scott Paterson) gave me my chance and they have believed in me. I couldn't thank them any more for that," he said.
"Because of the ban people might have been a wee bit wary about it, but they brought me right back straight away."
Fraser admitted he was worried about his future after a Scottish Football Association disciplinary panel found him guilty of excessive misconduct by "seizing a player on the opposing team, thereby causing him to fall to the ground, and thereafter kicking him repeatedly on the head and body".
But he added: "What happened and what was said were too different things. People who weren't even there said different things and made it worse than what it was.
"But I knew the manager knew it wasn't that bad. That's all behind me now, it's in the past and I've moved on miles.
"I definitely want to repay him. We want to stay up for his sake as well, because he has been brilliant."