Robbie Neilson awarded pass marks to just three Hearts players in Saturday’s defeat by Motherwell – Perry Kitchen, Neil Alexander and Liam Smith. The head coach stressed the others simply didn’t match the standards expected by the Edinburgh club.
Lionel Ainsworth’s first-half goal gave the hosts a 1-0 win at Fir Park and leaves Hearts still trying to close an eight-point gap between themselves and second-placed Aberdeen in the Premiership. The visitors’ overall performance was below-par and Neilson was irked by the application levels shown.
Kitchen’s energy in midfield was notable in an overall sluggish display. Alexander didn’t have a great deal to do in goal, whilst Smith had a decent outing at left-back with both Igor Rossi and Juwon Oshaniwa suspended.
“Kitchen, Alexander and Smith were the three who got pass marks. For the rest, it just wasn’t good enough,” he told the Evening News. “As a group, we just didn’t get to the levels that we needed to. When you come to Fir Park, first and foremost you must compete. We didn’t compete.
“We had opportunities to get shots at goal or crosses into the box and we just didn’t do it. We were waiting for somebody else to give us that lift. Our performance has got to be better than that. We can’t accept a performance like that. We were poor. It just wasn’t good enough.”
Hearts missed the chance to close in on second-placed Aberdeen, who lost to St Johnstone on Friday night. Neilson believes his team can overhaul the eight-point gap and finish second in the table, but only if they improve dramatically in the remaining four games of the season.
“We spoke after the game and at half-time as well,” he said. “If you want to go and challenge for things then you have to perform all the time. You can’t just wait for the game to come to you.
“We didn’t deserve to get anything out of the game. Motherwell were the better team, they had a better attacking threat than us, they worked harder than us. It wasn’t acceptable for us. We brought a huge crowd down and we didn’t do enough to excite them.”