'Nowhere near good enough' - Steven Naismith addresses Hearts, Peter Haring's red card and St Mirren draw
Steven Naismith admitted Hearts were nowhere near good enough in the first half at St Mirren, but praised their resilient fightback from 2-0 down. A 2-2 draw did not help the Edinburgh club’s quest to finish third in the Premiership and Naismith explained mixed emotions afterwards.
Joe Shaughnessy and Ryan Strain put St Mirren 2-0 up by half-time, but Josh Ginnelly halved the deficit before Peter Haring’s red card reduced Hearts to 10 men. Lawrence Shankland’s late penalty salvaged a point. The Tynecastle side remain five points behind third-placed Aberdeen, who drew 0-0 with Hibs.
“We are still in it. That's the main thing,” said Naismith. “With the way the results went it's okay, but the first half was really frustrating because it was nowhere near good enough for where the expectation for the club is. We were far too safe and passive. St Mirren pressed as we expected they would and we weren't good enough to get through it in the first half.
“That's a real frustration because in the second half you see, with nothing to lose, the boys make brave decisions in key moments and that gets us back in the game. Then we have the desire to play for the 95 or 96 minutes and we come away with something that gives us hope. That's what it gives me. It gives me hope that the second-half performance was so contrasted to the first.”
Naismith disagreed with three key decisions by referee David Dickinson. Haring’s straight red card for serious foul play following a sliding challenge on Mark O’Hara was a contentious issue. “For me it is three decisions. The red card, VAR is involved in that as well, but I personally disagreed with it. I thought it was a foul to stop the game from a counter-attack. It was right in front of me, I didn't think it was aggressive or even the speed I don't think is excessive.
“The foul for the second goal [James Hill on O’Hara], I don't agree with. I'm fortunate enough to see it again. Hilly just goes and wins the ball but yet we get given a foul against us and it cost us. I think it could be a penalty. How VAR works, who knows. This is our footage but I can see a clear pull [on Josh Ginnelly]. Peter Haring who is going into the area where the ball is going. I said last week I'm frustrated and I'm frustrated again this week because of a lack of consistency.
“The ref was really good at the end of the game, allowing me to speak to him and have a discussion and a conversation about it which is fine. I get his point of view and his team's point of view but it doesn't help us for three points.”
Goalkeeper Zander Clark made several important saves to keep Hearts in the game, whilst substitutes Nathaniel Atkinson and Jorge Grant gave the visitors vital forward momentum. “As annoyed and frustrated with the first half as I am, our big players made big decisions that got us something out of the game which is good,” said Naismith. “I need to mention the players who came on the park. They all made a difference and contributed and a big reason why we came away with a point.”
He added that aspects of in-play quality must improve going forward. “I want them to bring a ball down out of the air when there’s not that much pressure on them for a start. At this level, if we want to be a team consistently in Europe you’ve got to be able to do that.
“Making right choices – we made wrong choices. We risked the ball in areas that were far too high risk. The decision-making wasn’t good enough and we were really passive. The first half there was none of the same energy that we’ve had in the last two games. That’s what we’re built on. That’s the frustration.”