Hearts speak out on the big moments which cost them against Ross County

The Edinburgh club were not happy at refereeing decisions in Dingwall

Hearts head coach Steven Naismith criticised both his team's defending and referee Grant Irvine following the Edinburgh club's 2-1 defeat by Ross County in Dingwall. Irvine cautioned the Tynecastle captain Lawrence Shankland for simulation and then disallowed a Hearts goal for a disputed offside against the same player.

Simon Murray scored both goals for County amid sloppy defending by the visitors, although a 90th-minute strike by substitute Yutaro Oda gave his team a consolation. Steven Naismith, the Hearts head coach, was unhappy with his side's back line and the two refereeing decisions. He argued that Shankland was not diving when he went down in a challenge with the Ross County defender Ryan Leak. He also stressed that disallowing Stephen Kingsley's free-kick because Shankland was offside and in the eyeline of home goalkeeper George Wickens cost Hearts a point.

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"I'm disappointed. What cost us today was poor defending," said Naismith. "With how well we've been doing, to defend the way we did gave us a big challenge as the game goes on. Our understanding of how to put them under pressure was good, but we were lacked a wee bit at the final moment. You are looking to score a goal as early as possible to put pressure on.

"I thought our free-kick should have stood, I don't understand why it was chalked off. The fourth official said that the goalie had to look around Shanks to see the ball but he's looking around the wall. Shanks is on the right-hand side of the goalie, the ball goes into the left corner. I think it's a really poor decision.

"When the free-kick goes in, there are 15 minutes to go so I'm confident we [could] score another goal. I thought that was a poor decision and the [non] penalty was a poor decision. It wasn't a dive by Shankland. There is no simulation. The defender stretches his leg out to block the ball and Shanks goes over. I thought the ref was naive to show a [yellow] card. I think he could have let the game go, I don't think it was a foul, no-one looked for a foul. The free-kick is a big moment, we kept plodding along. We could have got better, but our defending is what cost us.

"Today is disappointing because it was a missed opportunity. We could have played better in both boxes, which would have given us a better chance of getting a win. The sign of a good team is that these runs should become normal, so we will use the international break to refresh, get players back and hopefully get back to winning ways."

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Naismith made substitutions early in the second half by introducing midfielder Jorge Grant and wing-back Dexter Lembikisa for Aidan Denholm and Nathaniel Atkinson respectively. "I thought we lacked a bit of urgency in our press," he explained. "It was coming from couple of their players drifted into positions that was causing us problems, so I simplified it a bit.

"It got us a body further forward and we pressed a bit better. For most of the game, they had two or three chances that came from our poor defending, but after we tweaked it we dominated the game and did everything but score. We lacked a wee bit of cutting edge in the final third."

Ross County move to within a point of St Johnstone in 10th position in the Premiership as a result of their victory. Interim manager Don Cowie has now overseen two wins, two draws and one defeat in the last five fixtures and the Highlanders remain unbeaten at home under him.

"Any three points is massive," he said. "We were playing against a very good team, comfortably third in the league for a reason, but I'm proud of the group for standing up to that and getting three points. Our work-rate and togetherness, and people putting their body on the line. I would have loved to have seen the game out with a clean sheet, but overall I'm happy with the three points.

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"You've got to take heart from it [being undefeated at home] and realise that Hearts are an excellent team. Beating them here has to give us confidence going into the last eight games of the season. We've taken eight points at home, and I'm really happy with that, but now we've got to transfer that to away games because we've got two very tough games coming up."

Murray's double takes him to 16 goals from 36 games this season. "He's got so much energy and quality, he can be unpredictable at times but that's just the way he is," said Cowie. "He's got that never-say-die attitude, and his second finish was very clinical so I'm very pleased for him."

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