“That was my seventh appearance for Hearts and it was my first win. When I was on loan at Cowdenbeath last year we weren’t winning either. It must just be me.”
Lewis Moore is comically self-deprecating despite being only 19 years old. Making a joke about himself just a handful of games into his senior Hearts career illustrates the winger’s grounded outlook. He is an industrious player – a “workhorse”, as he puts it – who showcased his diligence in Saturday’s long-awaited victory over Motherwell.
Hearts won for the first time in seven games and the first with young Moore on the pitch. He started in his favoured wing position but finished as a disciplined defender who put other so-called specialist left-backs to shame.
He hopes his attitude and endeavour is sufficient to keep him in the team against Dundee tonight after recently fighting off the virus which has swept through Riccarton.
“I was wide left to start with but we had been told before that Motherwell might change formation,” explained Moore, speaking exclusively to the Evening News. “Purely because I’m a workhorse, I got moved to left wing-back. Their winger was playing so high that I ended up basically playing left-back. I’ve got to thank the gaffer for having the faith to play me there. Hopefully I’m repaying him.
“I was off ill for more than a week and that killed me. I had that virus which was going round us all. It was the worst week of my life, honestly. I was meant to be starting against Partick Thistle but I had to phone in when I woke up. I was like: ‘I just can’t.’ It was the worst feeling. I was glad to get my chance on Saturday, so hopefully I’m doing well enough to keep my place.”
Craig Levein, the Hearts manager, is impressed with Moore contribution and even likens him to a popular predecessor.
“He’s been good. He reminds me a bit of Sam Nicholson in that he relishes doing the defensive side of the game,” said Levein. “You don’t even need to say to him to get back into position. He just does it automatically.
“What he’s really good at is judging distances. He doesn’t come all the way back, he judges where he can take a little bit of a gamble and maybe intercept a ball to the opposition’s wide player. Then he wins the ball and he’s on the front foot. He’s really good at it. He has been for a couple of years.
“When he plays for the Under-20s, it’s amazing how he just knows the right place to be defensively to intercept or tackle.”
Supporters can expect Moore to exert more influence at first-team level over the coming weeks and months.
“We’re waiting for his confidence to grow a bit,” admitted Levein. “When he plays in the Under-20s, he scores and creates goals. I think he’s just a little bit nervous just now coming into the first team. I think there’s a lot more to come from him and I like him. He’s going to be a really good player.”
He isn’t, however, going to be moulded into a full-back. Or even a wing-back.
“I wouldn’t look at anything we’re doing on the left side right now as the solution,” stressed Levein. “Lewis isn’t a left wing-back. Could I foresee a situation in the future when we play a 3-5-2 and use him as an attacking wide player on the left? Maybe. He is a winger, though. He’s a winger who does the defensive side well, rather than a wing-back who attacks.”
By his own admission, Moore has not suddenly become an expert on defensive resilience. He much prefers using his skill and running power further up the field. Saturday was a case of needs must. Hearts were 1-0 up through Kyle Lafferty and desperate to win for the first time at the redeveloped Tynecastle Park. The tension was palpable.
“Later on in Saturday’s game, Don [Cowie] got fouled and it just took the pressure right off.,” said Moore. “You’re thinking in your head: ‘That’s us got the three points.’ It’s not so much my game but you’ve got learn that side of football.
“There was a moment when I passed the ball back and we lost possession. Christophe [Berra] had a go at me but it was deserved because what I did was stupid. It was slack on my part. I just thought: ‘Oh no. This could end up in our net.’ Thankfully it didn’t. After that I just stuck to what I needed to do. Christophe was just doing his job, he’s just helping me and he helped me through after that. When I gave the ball away, I just heard the fans. You don’t want to hear that. It’s bad.”
The nerves were heightened by the fact Hearts hadn’t experienced that winning feeling since October. Players and supporters alike were craving a victory with each passing week. Moore, as mentioned, had been in that testing situation before in the far less salubrious surroundings of League Two.
“I experienced this last year on loan at Cowdenbeath. You can play well and think you’ve done enough, but last-minute goals kill you. You begin to think to yourself: ‘What can we do to win a game?’ Honestly, Foxy [Liam Fox, Hearts coach and ex-Cowdenbeath manager] will tell you. It’s so hard mentally. You go into every game thinking the worst situations but that’s part of football. It happens to every team and you just have to be strong and get through it.
“I’m thankful for that experience in a way. I know personally that all you can do is work hard and it will come. It’s sometimes hard to believe it will come, but things will change.
“Now we’ve broken that winless run at Hearts, we want to make it the start of something. We’re unbeaten in four games, we haven’t conceded many goals so hopefully we can start scoring more from tonight against Dundee.
“This is another big game. We go into it with confidence because we know we can win and we should win.”