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Souttar: Hearts need to start reaping rewards of new defensive style

Hearts centre-back John Souttar admits Daniel Stendel’s tactics have forced the need to adapt to a different style of defending – but he accepts they have no more time to get used to the ideas.

Hearts have conceded 13 goals in four league games since victory over Rangers gave Stendel his only three points in 11 matches.

Rangers return to Tynecastle on William Hill Scottish Cup duty on Saturday determined to make amends and keep alive their most realistic hope of silverware this season.

And Souttar knows they will need to transfer the extra work in training into action following a 14-day break between matches.

Stendel is keen for his team to press high and get men forward but more goals have flowed at both ends.

Souttar said: “It’s a different style of football compared to what we have played before. It is different but we have got to focus on keeping clean sheets now, we have got to stop conceding so many chances. That’s as the whole unit as well as the back four.

“It’s different but it has got its benefits as well. Everyone is buying into what he wants to do, that attacking, and you could see against Rangers it came off.

“It’s going to take time… we have had a bit of time now to get things right but now we have got to start getting the rewards.

“The training has been good, everyone has looked good. Every day we are learning a bit more about how the gaffer wants us to play and what style of football he wants us to play but it’s results we need and we need them quickly.

“It’s got to get transitioned from training to games quickly.”

Hearts’ Ladbrokes Premiership predicament worsened on Tuesday when third-bottom St Mirren opened up a six-point gap on Stendel’s basement side.

Souttar admits they are in dire need of the kind of positivity that a quarter-final victory over Rangers would bring.

“It would be huge,” the 23-year-old said. “It’s been a difficult season for everyone at the club so for us to get to a semi-final would bring back a feelgood factor to the whole place. I think that’s needed just now.

“Our attention is on the league, we have to stay up. So going into Saturday it’s almost a free hit for us because it’s a cup game and it’s Rangers. All our attention is on the league and anything that happens on Saturday is a bonus.

“We have to play without fear. If we play the way we can play and the crowd is up, Tynecastle is a difficult place for anyone to come.”

The lift Hearts took from beating Rangers in January did not prove lasting as they took two points from their subsequent four league games.

When asked why, Souttar said: “It’s difficult to put my finger on a specific reason. There’s a lot of different things, boys not performing, things just not going for us, but it’s done now so there’s no point dwelling on it.

“We’ve got 11 games to stay up so we’ve got to be positive. There’s no point looking back and thinking what went wrong. We have to get results.”