Steven Naismith explains Hearts' defeat at St Mirren and identifies what they must do better
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Steven Naismith identified what Hearts must do better following a frustrating 1-0 loss at St Mirren. The Tynecastle head coach was disappointed at the outcome in Paisley after Ryan Strain’s seventh-minute strike secured three points for the hosts, who remain second in the Premiership table.
Hearts defender Kye Rowles had a header cleared off the goal line, whilst midfielder Cammy Devlin and striker Lawrence Shankland were both denied by St Mirren goalkeeper Zach Hemming when through on goal.
“That’s the biggest thing, frustration. We give up a very cheap goal and then we have three good chances which we have to score. That is ultimately what defined the game,” said Naismith. “St Mirren scoring so early allows them to pick their moments – when to press and when to counter-attack.
“The game played out very much how we expected it to. It was just both boxes – we gave ourself an uphill challenge losing an early goal and then we weren’t clinical enough in the final third, which has cost us.”
The slow start is one area Naismith is keen to address. “I’ve experienced it as a player at Hearts,” he explained. “When you are a club that’s going to be challenging for Europe, most teams are happy to sit in and try to frustrate you and allow you to have possession. That’s something I don’t think we have dealt well enough with, especially away from home. It’s something we need to get better at. We need to work on it.
“We can’t give up that amount of cheap chances. I don’t think the quality was great today, it was a very bitty game. Both teams gave up possession cheaply at times and it was a slow, low-level game. That doesn’t suit the way we want to play. We have to inject that into the game. Whether that be taking a free-kick quickly or not giving away cheap fouls to let the opposition dictate the temp of the game.”
With only three league wins away from home last season, plus one so far this term, Hearts are struggling to reproduce their Tynecastle form on the road. “It’s something which has been there for a while,” acknowledged Naismith. “We have shown in home games, like Aberdeen last week, the game was tentative for the first 10 minutes and then we were comfortable. We started to dictate the tempo and got a good goal. We need to do that consistently in every game.
“That comes from our decision-making in small things – whether we give up a foul and then you hand the onus to the opposition to decide how quick that is taken. That’s something we will come up against quite regularly this season and we need to deal with it better.”
Liam Boyce’s header sent Shankland through on goal in the sixth minute of stoppage-time, only for Hemming to produce a priceless save. “Shanks has done it a number of times,” said Naismith. “The end of the game is very similar to the one at the end of last season when we were chasing the game. We created chances and got a penalty that we scored to get the draw, but we shouldn’t be sitting waiting in the 96th minute to hopefully get a goal to get us back in the game.
“I would like us to be either in the game and pushing for a winner, or in the lead and controlling the game.”