Michael Smith insists Hearts can still reach the Scottish Premiership’s top four and has implored fans to stick by them until they click.
The Northern Irish defender asked for patience following Saturday’s goalless draw with Ross County at Tynecastle Park – a game Hearts dominated without forcing a winning goal.
Some supporters jeered at full-time as the club’s winless run increased to five matches, but Smith stressed Hearts’ performance was the best for some time. They recorded 23 shots at goal, compared with County’s five, and only lacked a killer touch to turn one point into three. Smith said fans who stay behind the team will be rewarded soon because there is undoubted progress on the field. He feels they are still capable of fulfilling their pre-season aim of finishing inside the top four.
Craig Levein’s side are currently in seventh place and seven points behind Rangers, who occupy fourth spot. “At a club like this, it’s top four. I believe we can get there, 100 per cent,” said Smith.
“We ask for patience. We’ve got quite a few new players in and we’re still gelling. We just need things to click for us on the pitch. Then we’ll be off on a run. I think we’re so, so close. I’d ask the fans to stick with us. If we’d won on Saturday then spirits would’ve been really high going into next week. We could’ve probably won 4-0. Their keeper has made a couple of great saves. Even the one from Don [Cowie] at the end, it’s hit him on the feet and he had no clue where the ball was. He’s had one of those days.
“We just couldn’t stick the ball in the back of the net, but it’s probably the best we’ve played in ages so we’ll take positives from it. We were a bit downhearted after the game but we had so many shots on goal. We’re disappointed not to score because we absolutely dominated.”
Two months of work on the training field since Craig Levein was appointed manager is slowing starting to pay off, according to Smith.
“It’s starting to show on the pitch what we’re doing in training. It’s coming out in the game on a Saturday. That’s a positive thing. We just need to keep a consistent team on the pitch and we will gel and get results.
“We’ve worked on people showing for the ball and moving off the ball. That helps the strikers and helps us at the back to know where strikers are going to be. It is working well, as you can see with the opportunities we created on Saturday.”
Hearts are awaiting news on injuries to centre-back Aaron Hughes and midfielder Harry Cochrane, who were forced off during Saturday’s match.