Craig Levein is encouraged by Hearts’ performance against Celtic ahead of their William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final clash with Partick Thistle.
Levein’s side suffered a 2-1 stoppage-time defeat but had made the early running against the champions and looked like taking a point despite playing the majority of the game with 10 men following Jamie Brandon’s red card.
Hearts are looking to reach their second semi-final of the season when they take on the Jags in Glasgow on Monday evening and Levein feels they might be getting back to their best again after being ravaged by injuries following their flying start to the campaign.
Levein said: “I think there was enough in our performance to see that we can really compete with everybody again. We competed with the team that is recognised as the best in the league.
“There were some good performances by players who have had injury problems and have struggled to get right back to their best, which gives me a fair bit of pleasure, because I feel that’s them back to where they were previously.”
Levein, who is without full-backs Michael Smith and Demetri Mitchell, added: “We have a few problems defensively with injury again, but we can cope with that.
“We got to the semi-final of the Betfred Cup and lost Steven Naismith in the first minute of the match (against Celtic), which made it extremely difficult for us. But the experience of getting there was good.
“It’s been a while since we have managed to get into two semi-finals. If we can do that and if we can get the victory against Partick, then it puts us in a good position.”
Levein is set to come up against one of his former Scotland players, Gary Caldwell, who took over as Thistle manager in mid-October.
The former Celtic defender led the Jags to seven matches unbeaten after New Year’s Day but they are back at the bottom of the Ladbrokes Championship after losing their last two.
Levein said: “It’s difficult coming in at the time he came in. I actually spoke to him, we had a blether on the phone before he took the job. He’s a good guy and I wish him well as a young Scottish manager making his way in the game.
“He has had a tough start and the transfer window opened and he made some good signings.
“He is a straightforward guy, there are no sides to him. He pretty much is as he plays, he was an honest pro. I wish him well, obviously apart from on Monday.”
Levein hopes to have Naismith available after the Scotland international went off midway through Wednesday’s defeat by Celtic.
The boss said: “He’s had an operation obviously, a little bit of cartilage shaved off. That was the same knee and it was irritating him, so I don’t know.”