A defeat prior to the international break normally results in plenty of rumination. It sits there uncomfortably and for too long.

It was slightly different this time around for Heart of Midlothian. Of course, there was frustration after losing to Ross County, a side struggling at the bottom end of the table, in front of a big, expectant away support at a ground where the club have a good record.

There was frustration at parts of the performance. Frustration at some of the sloppy defending. Frustration that the team weren't able to finally record a 10th away victory in a top-flight season since the early 90s. Frustration that the team weren't able to extend their lead in third to 14 points and remain closer to the Old Firm than the chasing pack of Kilmarnock and St Mirren.

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But that's all it was frustration. Not anger or overreaction, aided by a fantastic run since losing to Aberdeen all the way back in December. Although a few eyebrows may have been raised by a 5-1 defeat to Dundee in a bounce game. A runout designed to get minutes in the legs of players, including Barrie McKay.

For those who were still stewing over the course of last week, it was surely eradicated with news of James Penrice and Blair Spittal agreeing deals for next season, followed by Kenneth Vargas penning a five-year deal to make his loan deal permanent. Then there was the badge-gate. An episode the club turned into promotional material for the ticket sale for the Scottish Cup semi-final with Rangers. At the time of writing more than 10,000 have been snapped up on the first day of going on sale.

But, finally, the important business gets back up and running on Saturday with one of the games of the weekend in Scotland. Hearts v Kilmarnock, third v fourth, at Tynecastle Park on Big Hearts Day.

There was a period earlier in the campaign when the term 'must win' was thrown around like confetti such were the precarious positions the team found themselves in. That was certainly the view externally. This weekend's match doesn't fall into that category, nor does next week's trip to Paisley to face St Mirren. That is because of the work the team has done across the past four months and the position they have put themselves in.

At the same time, it is vital complacency is not allowed to find its way into the team's psyche, even subconsciously. Last season should be used as motivation.

Back-to-back wins across the next two weekends would be somewhat of a statement return after the international break and one win in the previous four league games. Victories would vanquish the demons of 12 months ago when the team's grasp on third place agonisingly drifted away, like a child watching their balloon float into the sky.

It would highlight a team that is not messing around, reaffirming their position as the third-best in the league. Six points would take them to 61 and open up a gap of at least 14 points going into the final six fixtures of the season. Third spot would be all but secured.

It is much easier said than done, however.

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Wins over Kilmarnock at Tynecastle and St Mirren in Paisley really shouldn't be viewed as anything like statement victories. But then you consider the awful records in the respective fixtures. Hearts have won just four of their last 19 home matches against Killie. A staggering statistic when you consider there have been four home wins over Celtic in the last 12 meetings and six from the last 19 against Rangers. It's not much better reading at the SMiSA Stadium. Four wins in 17 dating back to 2009. 

That next step the team and club want to take, that of closing the gap to the Old Firm, means improving those records. And doing so stat. 

They are two teams that pose plenty of difficulty and threat. Out of the two, it is Kilmarnock who present the biggest concern. They have a deep squad, a shrewd manager, a collective quality with plenty of individual and match-winning talent. Their last outing demonstrated that quality. Trailing 2-0 after an hour at home to St Mirren they roared back to win 5-2. 

There has been positive news around the injury situation. Barrie McKay is available and Calem Nieuwenhof may not be ready to start but he could be involved. However, it is Frankie Kent who could be key. Toby Sibbick and Kye Rowles struggled against Jordan White and Simon Murray in the defeat in Dingwall. Killie possess a similar strike partnership but even better with Kyle Vassell's physicality and Marley Watkins' running power. 

It sets up what could be a captivating afternoon at Tynecastle Park. Killie know what a win could do in terms of increasing the pressure, especially with two of the bottom three to play before the split. Equally, Hearts would provide a decisive blow with three points. 

The sooner Hearts can wrap up third, the greater the opportunity for Steven Naismith to prepare the team for next season and a possible Scottish Cup final. That could mean keeping the team ticking over trying to improve a wretched top-six record that has brought four wins from the last 30 post-split fixtures and ensure the players in a good place for a potential final against Celtic or winner-takes-all European group stage clash with Aberdeen.

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Or it could mean a stress-free end to the campaign which would allow Naismith to experiment, whether it be with personnel or systems. The Hearts head coach will have an idea of who he wants to be part of his squad next season with squad building well underway. It could mean a chance for Kyosue Tagawa to get a run of minutes or Macaulay Tait to move to the next level and get his first start for the club and possibly a chance for goalkeeping rotation.

But that is on the horizon. There are more pressing issues. Starting with Kilmarnock on Saturday. Defeat would make the next week feel much longer than the international break. Win and it is only a matter of time before no team can mathematically catch the men in maroon.