Hearts reaction: 'Third place isn't done. We were nowhere near our levels'

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Hearts manager Robbie Neilson admitted the fight for third place is far from over following Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Motherwell. A poor display leaves the Tynecastle side five points ahead of fourth-placed Hibs as Neilson dissected possibly his team’s worst display this season.

Jon Obika and Blair Spittal scored the goals at Fir Park to give the interim Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell two wins from two games in charge. He is now in a strong position to stay in situ for longer, while Hearts must now regroup with two weeks until their next Premiership fixture.

Finishing third guarantees European competition and Neilson stressed there is plenty football to be played before that position is secure. “All this talk is external, it’s a good storyline for everyone, but we are only five points clear,” he said. “I think the most we’ve been is eight so it’s never done and dusted till it’s over. We need to focus and let others talk.

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“I thought we were very poor today. It’s the worst we’ve been for a long time. That’s the frustrating thing. We’ve been in decent form then to perform like that, we were nowhere near the levels. Sometimes you come here at six or seven out of ten and you get results but we were a lot lower than that.

“You can have two or three players not at a level but we had the majority apart from Zander [Clark] not at that level. It’s disappointing because we set standards and we were way below it.

“Games are won and lost in moments. We lost a poor first goal. It was second-phase, one defender doesn’t come out and that makes it difficult. Then to lose another goal at the start of the second half, another second-phase ball comes in and we don’t react when it comes off post. The goals come down to concentration but that isn’t the big issue. The issue is we were miles off it and we need to rectify that.

“We knew what to expect here. The two boys up front [Obika and Kevin van Veen] were looking to win things off direct balls. It was a day that wasn’t good enough. We just need to get back to where we’ve been. We’re in third, played in Europe and in the quarter-finals of the cup. It was a disappointing display and it was very unlike us to give up possession and have passes going astray.

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“When it comes to the end of the game everything is done. At half-time you say your piece. At the end of the game it’s looking at the reasons behind it. Was that good enough? They’ve looked at each other and said it wasn’t to a man.”

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson looks dejected at full-time at Fir Park.Hearts manager Robbie Neilson looks dejected at full-time at Fir Park.
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson looks dejected at full-time at Fir Park.

Kettlewell admitted he hasn't slept much since taking temporary charge of Motherwell following Steven Hammell’s sacking last weekend. “There has been no contact or conversation about what happens, I wasn’t expecting it,” he said when asked about talks with the board after full-time. “Win, lose or draw, then get up the road and try and chill out because the last week has been chaos trying to work towards six points.

“There has to be a reset in that and try to get some sleep as well because that’s not been coming too freely recently. You want the best for the club so we’ll pick that up tomorrow and see the situation.”