St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright believes summer signing Stefan Scougall will be boosted by an impressive performance against Rangers.
Saints lost out 3-0 last Friday but the midfielder was a thorn in the side of the Gers’ defence.
One-time Livingston youngster Scougall was lured back north from Sheffield United to provide the guile and invention the Perth club lost with Danny Swanson’s summer switch to Hibs.
And Wright is looking to the 24-year-old to help get Saints back to winning ways against Hearts at Murrayfield tomorrow.
“I thought it was Stefan’s best 90 minutes against Rangers and he looked a real threat,” said Wright.
“A couple of his crosses were unlucky and he missed out on that final ball.
“Stefan has settled in really well and we are now seeing what a good player he is. He gave Declan John a really hard time in the game and got by him a number of times.
“He maybe just needs a little bit more composure in front of goal and in the last third. He is a great lad and I’m expecting big things from him.
“It’s the first time in a while where he has had a consistent run in a team and that will help him. I’ve been pleased with what Stefan has done and I think is getting better and better.”
After an impressive start to the season, Saints have lost three of their last four games, against Rangers, Aberdeen and Dundee.
But they’re still sitting in fifth place and Wright is looking to add points from back-to-back clashes with Hearts and Ross County.
“It’s easy when you lose one or two games to get negative but I leave that to people outwith the group,” said the McDiarmid manager.
“If you look at it, we’ve played nine games and have 14 points. We are in the top six.
“I work on the basis that we try to get a minimum of 15 points from every 11 games. That is the target. If you do that it puts you in a really strong position for finishing top six.
“We’re still in a good position but to make it a really good start to the season we certainly need to pick up points in the next couple games against Hearts and Ross County.
“I would have liked more points on the board but I can’t be too critical of the players because the table doesn’t lie.
“All of the bigger clubs can recruit better quality players. I know how difficult this league is.
“Dundee United were getting to semi-finals and a final of the cup and then got relegated. Inverness were in Europe, won the cup and then got relegated.
“And Partick Thistle were top six last season and are struggling a bit this year. It shows you how tough it is.
“But it also shows how well we have done as a group. We have consistently been a good side.
“We get blips but nine times out of 10 we recover and have a good season.
“As a group we need to cut out individual mistakes. A lot of the goals we have given away recently should have been prevented.”
Wright is hoping left-back Brian Easton is available after a knee knock and midfielder Blair Alston comes back into contention after recovering from a niggling thigh injury.
“Brian has done a bit of training so hopefully he will be fine. Blair came through 45 minutes for the under-20s against County and I thought he looked really good. He will be available.
“Michael O’Halloran has trained all week so we welcome him back. Steven Anderson and Richard Foster are suspended – but Richard is still struggling with his calf anyway.”
With Tynecastle currently being redeveloped, Hearts have turned to the home of Scottish rugby.
Wright said: “I’ve never been to Murrayfield so I’m looking forward to it.
“Apparently the pitch is very good and is a little longer than Tynecastle.
“It’s one of the hybrid pitches but I don’t think it will play any different to a grass pitch.
“I would imagine Hearts will get near 20,000 fans when they are playing there. So even though it is a big stadium, it will still be a decent atmosphere.
“But it will only be a good experience for us if we pick up three points.”