'It was a penalty' - Hearts boss on VAR frustrations and defensive improvement in 2-1 win vs Motherwell

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Naismith full of praise for players across the board following 2-1 win at Fir Park

Hearts are now able to head into the upcoming international break with a vital win under their belt. Following the heart-break at Hampden, Steven Naismith’s side were able to defeat Motherwell 2-1 in their own backyard thanks to two brilliant goals from Lawrence Shankland and a much stronger defensive display from the Jambos squad. 

Hearts had plenty of goal-scoring opportunities, with Zander Clark unused for the majority of the 90 minutes - excluding an unfortunate penalty. While the likes of Stephen Kingsley, Calem Nieunwehof and Alex Lowry all had their shots, the Gorgie side were still able to come away with three points and fourth place in the league. 

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Speaking after the match, Naismith is under no illusion as to how big a win that was for his squad. 

“It was a big win because of our previous results”, the Hearts boss confirmed. “ I think it is important you stop that and you get the points you need as quickly as you can. I think we did that with what was a really good performance overall.”

One of the major improvements seen against Motherwell was Hearts’ ability to defend until the last breaths of the game and stop the opposition from quickly doubling their score. While the 37-year-old believes his squad could have had plenty more chances to score, the main takeaway was their ability to hold on to the one goal lead. 

“It should have been (a greater win margin) because we had a couple of more chances. It should have been because we should have had a penalty or two. 

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“But then the positive from that is when they score we defended really well in those dying moment which has been questioned with losing some quick goals back-to-back in games, that was really pleasing.

VAR once again found its way into another Premiership fixture with the letters met with boos from around the ground. Hearts had two potential penalty checks while Motherwell’s was met with a spot-kick after an Alex Cochrane handball. 

Speaking of the VAR and decisions, Naismith complained of the appeared inconsistencies within the 90 minutes of play.

Liam Boyce one is a penalty for me,” admitted the ex-Jambos striker. “ If the referee turns round and says there is not enough contact, 20 minutes later he can't give a foul in the middle of the park for something that has got less contact. It doesn't make sense. 

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“The second one: Ibrox we get blocked, the penalty stands. Today they are saying blocks now count. The inconsistency is what is ruining it.”

However, the main talking points from the Jambos win will undoubtedly be Lawrence Shankland’s two goals either side of half time. While the Hearts’ captain will take the glory, Naismith has been quick to remind everyone that it was a phenomenal team effort which provided the three points.

“I think (Shankland) was really good. Liam Boyce deserves a mention, he was really good as well. The midfield three were good and we defended well so overall it was a great performance. 

“All through the pitch there were really good performances. Lawrence gets the headlines because he scored the goals but he will be the first to tell you he needs his team mates to 1) create the chances and 2) defend well to get the wins and he gets the headlines."

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Another star contributor was Congolese midfielder Beni Baningime and it’s been no secret that he has struggled since returning from injury. When asked whether he felt this was Baningime returning to pre-injury form, Naismith confessed: “I think he has had moments. It's a long-term injury, it takes time. 

“Not everything from Beni was perfect but the majority was really good. I think he has shown that through the pre-season, it's just about the more games he plays, the more minutes he gets, the more comfortable he gets. 

“Overall a really good performance from him, Calem [Nieuwenhof], Alex Lowry as well in the middle of the park.”

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