Billy King praised his team-mates’ ability to ‘grind out results’ as the Jambos survived a tough match against Livingston on Saturday to extend their lead at the top of the Scottish Championship.
James Keatings scored the only goal of the game in an impressive first half, but the league leaders were penned back by the division’s 12th-placed team and had to show character to hold firm to secure a vital three points.
The team had gained a reputation at the start of the season for its attacking, inventive play, but the winger believes the knack of battling to victories could prove just as crucial come the season’s end.
“It wasn’t our usual level of performance,” he remarked. “At the start of the season we were blowing teams away, but we managed to grind out the three points which is the most important thing.
“These matches can be where titles are won and lost, they can often be more crucial than beating teams by four or five goals, and it shows we can do the hard work as well as play nice football.”
Many are hailing the Jambos as potential title winners, but the Riccarton graduate joined the rest of the squad in dampening the flames of those claims, insisting Hearts still had it all to do in the second half of the season.
Despite opening up a 15-point lead over nearest challengers Rangers, the Ibrox side remain a formidable foe, and city rivals Hibs have started to put a run of results together.
Accordingly, Billy feels the best way to deal with this would be simply to beat Hibs in Saturday’s New Year derby.
“Our mind set remains the same. We’re looking to win games, we’ve done well so far but we need to maintain it in the second half of the season”, said King. “Hibs started the season slowly but have picked up their form.
“We’ll need to be on our toes in the derby, because it’ll be a difficult game but we’re looking forward to the challenge. We won’t go into the derby thinking about our lead.
“It’ll be treated like every other derby, which means we need to win it, regardless of our league position. The first derby at Tynecastle was electric and we want to repeat that.”
Lastly, the Scotland U21 star hailed the magnificent travelling support from Edinburgh, with over 7000 fans braving the cold to back the boys in maroon in West Lothian.
Admitting it was ‘a bit strange’, King nevertheless conceded it gave the team a huge boost to run out of the tunnel at Almondvale to see a wall of maroon facing them from three sides.
“It was a bit strange, a bit different, with there being more than 7,000 Hearts fans," he adde. "Three stands were filled with Hearts fans and that gave us great motivation and spurred us on. It undoubtedly helped us.
"To be honest, it just felt like we were playing at Tynecastle. It was an immense travelling support and undoubtedly played a part in us getting the three points.”