Hearts visit struggling Kilmarnock on the back of a 3-2 mid-week win over basement side Dundee United that got the Capital outfit back on track.
The Tynecastle outfit had only taken four points from their last five games prior to the narrow win over the bottom club which put a stop to the rot and took them back to within seven points of the top two.
The went behind to an early penalty but hit back with first half strikes from Gavin Reilly, Prince Bauben and a Osman Sow spot-kick to take the three points – and breath a sigh of relief as they got back to winning ways.
Kallum Higginbotham, Jamie Hammil and Scott Robinson could be set to return for a Killie side that are rooted in second bottom and although they lead Dundee United by ten points, the Tannadice outfit have two games in hand and Gary Locke’s side are in a pretty woeful run of form.
They’ve been affected by a sickness bug that has left the squad feeling pretty shabby but the run of just one win - a 1-0 victory at Hamilton on Boxing Day – in their last nine has left his guts spinning too. Killie have drawn twice in that time but the six defeats that they have suffered have left them stuck in the relegation play-off spot and with Motherwell starting to put a run of form together, and with both Rangers and Hearts vying for a shot back in the big-time, the Rugby Park side do not want to be in this position come May.
That means starting to string some results together and when you look at the fixtures, it’s hard to see where they are going to come from. Hearts will certainly look at this game as one that they should be winning if they are to get back to putting pressure on the top two of Celtic and Aberdeen as fourth-placed St. Johnstone are now suffering a wobble with two defeats and a draw in their three Holiday period games. Granted one of those defeats was against Celtic and they took a point off Hearts, but no-one saw the mid-week defeat at Motherwell coming.
Hearts will be hoping to pile on the misery and Killie can expect no mercy from a side that need to start putting games to bed with far too many being drawn in recent weeks for boss Robbie Neilson’s liking.
It’s hard to see them slipping up in this one and you’ve got to fancy Hearts for the win as they look to regain some of the early season momentum that had rocketed them to the top in the first weeks of the season - but the worry here is that they get back into that drawing mentality.
Kilmarnock Stats W5 D5 L11
Recent Form LDLLWL
Hearts Stats W10 D6 L4
Recent Form DDLDDW
03/10/2015 Hearts 1 Kilmarnock 1
23/09/2015 Kilmarnock 2 Hearts 3
04/05/2014 Hearts 5 Kilmarnock 0
08/03/2014 Kilmarnock 4 Hearts 2
26/12/2013 Hearts 0 Kilmarnock 4
Kilmarnock (4-2-3-1) –MacDonald, Barbour, Connolly, Balatoni, Findlay, Hamill, Smith, Magennis, Splaine, Kiltie, Boyd.
Hearts (4-4-2) – Alexander, McGhee, Ozturk, Rossi Branco, Oshinwa, Nicholson, Abankwah, Gomis, King, Sow, Reilly.
Kilmarnock: Johnston (inj), Higginbotham (inj).
Hearts: Walker (inj), El Hassnaoui (inj).