Hearts V Partick at Tynecastle Stadium : Match Preview
Liam Smith hopes Hearts have seen back of defensive problems
Liam Smith hopes Hearts can get back on the front foot in the chase for a European slot after finally sorting out their problems in defence.
The Jambos let their grasp on a Europa League spot slip after picking up just one win during a torrid seven-game run.
During that stretch, the Gorgie men were conceding an average of two goals a game as they dropped down to fifth in the Ladbrokes Premiership table.
But the recent 1-0 Tynecastle win over Dundee and goalless draw down at Kilmarnock have suggested manager Ian Cathro has found a way to solidify his team's rear-guard.
Now full-back Smith reckons those morale-boosting results will give the Gorgie flair players the confidence they need to start troubling teams at the other end.
And he hopes that will pay off when they host Partick Thistle on Saturday.
Smith, whose side must rein in St Johnstone's four-point lead if they are to snatch back a Euro ticket, said: "When you're controlling games but not getting results then your confidence does take a dint as you start thinking, 'What do we have to do to win games?'
"So from a defender's point of view, the two clean sheets we've had are a positive. We've been losing games but if you don't concede goals you can't get beat.
"When your confidence is low and you're not picking up the results you want, you need to go back to basics and a clean sheet does that for the defenders.
"Then you can allow your attacking players to go win the game.
"If you can get your confidence back by not conceding then it allows your more influential players to have the confidence that the boys behind them are going to keep a clean sheet.
"With five games left we can't look behind us now, we have to look forward and that starts on Saturday. If we can get a bit of momentum going that will be a big help to us achieving our aim of getting back into Europe."
Thistle defender Christie Elliott hopes to test jittery Jambo nerves even further when his side take on Hearts.
He told Press Association Sport: "The start to the game will be massive, especially after the recent run they have been on.
"If we can start well it will hopefully quieten the crowd down and allow us to play our football. When we do that we know we can beat any team on our day.
"You know when you face a side whose results have been on a downward spiral that their confidence will be low.
"If you can get an early goal it dampens any confidence they have left further.
"Hearts are a brilliant team, though, so we will have to be at our best. The times we've played them this season we've done well to match them, so the first goal this weekend will be crucial."