MacDonald hails Rovers’ attitude as Hearts and Raith prepare for round two

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SEQUELS often struggle to live up to the original and that will surely be the case at Stark’s Park tomorrow.

After all, how are Raith Rovers and Hearts going to match the storylines and drama they dished out at Tynecastle on Saturday?

Raith, laid low by the coronavirus and having not played in almost a month, racing into a three-goal lead on their way to a first win in Gorgie since 1993.

Championship leaders Hearts pulling back two goals through Liam Boyce but unable to find a third to prevent a first home defeat of the season.

Referee John Beaton playing nine minutes of injury time and then showing Hearts manager Robbie Neilson a red card after the final whistle.

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And hero of the hour Jamie MacDonald getting out of his sickbed to deny his former club with a string of incredible saves, the last in the 98th minute. It was all there.

“After the last few weeks we’ve had with adversity, with players being ill, training one day in the last two weeks and not having a game for four weeks – the performance was outstanding,” said MacDonald afterwards with some justification.

“I thought we played unbelievably for the first hour. And then in the last half hour you could see tiredness and fatigue setting in. But the grind and attitude of the boys was excellent.

“I was one of the ones who had the virus and wasn’t feeling great to be honest up until Wednesday. So I’m feeling it now!

“The last 20 minutes I thought my calves were going to cramp up which doesn’t usually happen, especially for a goalie. So we all just had to look after ourselves and get healthy as quickly as we could last week.

“We did a light training session on Friday for the first time. And it was just about preserving as much energy for the match on Saturday. And what a shift the boys put in. Every one of them was magnificent.”

MacDonald modestly played down his own contribution but admitted that it was one of his finer afternoons at the stadium he graced as a home player for seven years.

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“I’ve got a lot of happy memories from there, both playing for Hearts and against. This one was up there.

“Thankfully I’ve made a couple of saves. Everything just went for us. We carried that wee bit of luck as well. We rode that a bit but you’d expect that if you’re going to go to Tynecastle and get a victory. It was a fantastic performance.”

Steven Naismith was one of those to be thwarted by MacDonald who stood up strong to block his volley with eight minutes of injury time showing on the clock.

The forward felt that was symptomatic of a day when Hearts gave themselves too much of a mountain to climb after falling three behind.

“I’ve probably hit it too well,” said Naismith. “And with the form that Jamie was in, that summed up the whole day. Ultimately, though, the problem was that all-round it wasn’t good enough.

“There’s an expectation here, especially at home. We shouldn’t be conceding three goals to say the least. It was tough for us. We created a lot of chances towards the end but it was just one of those afternoons.

“We gave away silly goals and then the second penalty they get awarded totally kills us. It’s not a penalty. John Beaton told us afterwards that he thought it was but it definitely wasn’t. Mikey Smith toes the ball back to the goalie. Once they score that it gives them loads of hope. They know they can hang on to get a result at Tynecastle.”

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Raith will no doubt have to weather another storm on home soil tomorrow night but MacDonald says they will be as ready as they can for it.

“Hearts will be hurting,” added the 34 year-old. “They’ve had a couple of off results now so we now it will be difficult. It will be another patch job for the boys, get as much rest as we can and then go again.”

Naismith added: “The games come thick and fast now and we’ve got to react. We’ve got to try now to win tomorrow.”

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