Hearts' tactical plan for the trip to Rangers as Tynecastle side take a bold approach

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Riccarton coaching staff have set out their gameplan.

Steven Naismith today pledged not to change his attacking ethos when Hearts visit Rangers in their penultimate Premiership game of the season. The Edinburgh club’s interim manager wants to go forward when in possession but remain compact and resilient without the ball.

Hearts hope to earn a result at Ibrox Stadium on Wednesday and keep alive their hopes of beating Aberdeen to third place. They sit two points behind the Pittodrie club, who host St Mirren knowing they could secure third spot on the night depending on results.

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Naismith outlined his tactical message to the Hearts players and stressed it will not differ from his previous five games in charge. “When we have the ball, we need to attack in every game,” he said. “Each game has different challenges so your shape for one game might be different in another game. These are smaller details.

“You are trying to stop the other team getting momentum in the game by setting up in a certain way. When you have the ball, it’s your turn to force them to change. That’s the message we will be giving on Wednesday. We won’t be changing what we do when we have the ball. We will do the same things.”

Handling the atmosphere away from home in Glasgow is likely to be one of the challenges for Hearts. Naismith admitted form outwith Tynecastle should be better. “The away form hasn’t been great. I think that’s down to surroundings,” he said. “We have been very consistent at Tynecastle so we need to make strides on the road. We have to get the players believing it is just a game of football. Yes, the atmosphere is different, but we can control that.

“If we have the ball or we get a free-kick, we can control the dynamic in the stadium. It takes time. Whether it’s mentality, style of play, actions within the game, there is always a revert back to type at times. That’s inevitably what happens with change because it takes time. People sometimes make the old mistakes but they become less and less. That’s what we are trying to achieve.”

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Hearts have lost the opening goal in four of Naismith’s five games in charge. They lost to Hibs and Celtic, recovered from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at St Mirren, and beat Aberdeen 2-1 at the weekend after conceding first. The other game was a 6-1 rout against Ross County.

Rangers captain James Tavernier and Hearts winger Barrie McKay will come up against one another on Wednesday.Rangers captain James Tavernier and Hearts winger Barrie McKay will come up against one another on Wednesday.
Rangers captain James Tavernier and Hearts winger Barrie McKay will come up against one another on Wednesday.

“If we go behind against Rangers, it’s no different to going behind against Aberdeen,” stated Naismith. “That would get the crowd on their side but, if we continue doing what we’ve been doing to create problems on the pitch, then we will create chances. At the weekend, we created more than 30 chances and scored two goals. Ideally, we would like to score more. If we are creating chances, there will be games where we score more than two.”

The character to come from behind in their last two matches against St Mirren and Aberdeen remains a hugely positive attribute. “I think that was questioned during the run of bad results – about their character and how much they want it,” added Naismith. “I think they have shown in the last two performances that they really want it and want to be successful.”