Scottish Premiership - Locke expected Hearts hammering

Gary Locke admitted it was only a matter of time before his young Hearts side were on the receiving end of a thrashing like the one dished out by Celtic at the weekend.

The administration-hit Jambos - deducted 15 points and banned from signing players - were drubbed 7-0 by the Hoops in the fourth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup on Sunday.

But Locke claims the surprising thing for some is the fact his inexperienced side - which contains just three players older than the squad average of 22 - have not suffered so harshly more often.

He is now hoping for a response from his troops when they return to Scottish Premiership duty against Dundee United at Tannadice on Saturday, and said: "We haven't done too badly this season. Without the 15-point deduction, we'd be sitting third bottom of the league.

"At the start of the season everyone outside this club expected us to be on the end of a few heavy defeats. I said that was always going to happen at some point.

"So it has happened and it is now important that we respond in the right manner."

Locke - whose side could finally climb to zero points if they beat the Tangerines this weekend - launched a stiff defence of his players after their cup nightmare as he insisted their lack of experience at top-flight level was costing them dear.

However, he also warned that the mistakes have to end soon.

"Tottenham went to Manchester City a few weeks ago and lost by six, so it happens," said the former club captain.

"That's football.

"We're all deeply disappointed and the players are hurting badly. But let's not forget where we are at the minute - we've got an under-20s team. We have to be realistic.

"People can say we are using it as an excuse but that is a fact. I could put out our team that played on Sunday in the under-20 league. We're allowed to play two over-age players - Jamie Hamill and Ryan Stevenson - and an over-age goalkeeper.

"So that's where we are and it's not an excuse. But we have to do better. We can't lose the goals we did on Sunday. For three or four of them we were all over the shop.

"I believe in these players but we have to do better when we face Dundee United on Saturday."