Hearts boss hails 'brilliant' Naismith - and gives Haring update

Stand-in Hearts skipper Steven Naismith celebrates.
Stand-in Hearts skipper Steven Naismith celebrates.
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Hearts boss Craig Levein hailed a "brilliant" display from Steven Naismith as Hearts extended their lead at the top of the table with a 2-1 win over Aberdeen.

The Gorgie Road side are now three points clear of Celtic in second place. They were able to secure the victory thanks to two goals in the space of five minutes towards the end of the first half.

Arnaud Djoum opened the scoring before Naismith bagged what would prove to be the winner from the penalty spot, having won the spot-kick himself.

Though he could have made things easier towards the end, seeing a second penalty saved by Aberdeen keeper Joe Lewis, he led by example from the front throughout the 90 minutes.

Levein was delighted with the contribution of his stand-in captain, even if he wished he'd added to his ten goals for the season after Shay Logan had brought down debutant Sean Clare.

"It should have been 11! He's off the penalties now anyway," joked Levein.

"No, listen. He was brilliant, wasn't he? You would never know that he's played two 90-minute games for Scotland. His energy is just incredible. I thought him and Steven MacLean were brilliant in the first half.

"It was satisfying watching that first half in particular. Had we got the goals our performances deserved then it would have been slightly easier. The performance was really good, considering the players we didn't have."

Added to the double-injury blow of losing Uche Ikpeazu and John Souttar to injury for five months, Hearts went into this one without influential midfielder Peter Haring.

The Austrian is dealing with a long-term issue which will eventually require surgery, though he's still expected to be back for next weekend's Betfred Cup semi-final clash with Celtic.

"I'm hoping he'll be ready for Tuesday [away to Dundee]. If not, I'm fairly sure he'll be ready for Sunday," said Levein.

"He needs a hernia operation. He's been playing with it and has picked up a muscle strain which has been caused by it.

"I'd hoped he was going to be ready for today but he's been slow to recover. I would be surprised if he's not ready for next Sunday."