Steven Naismith orders Hearts to secure top-six berth

Steven Naismith wants Hearts to battle
Steven Naismith wants Hearts to battle
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Steven Naismith today ordered Hearts to roll their sleeves up and secure their top-six place after losing to Hibs at Easter Road.

The Scotland forward insisted nothing can be done about the 12-point gap which now exists between the Edinburgh clubs in the Ladbrokes Premiership.

Instead, he insisted Hearts must focus on teams surrounding them to ensure they stay in the top six. Last night’s 2-0 defeat leaves them sixth, although seventh-placed Motherwell can close to within a point if they beat Hamilton today.

“A lot of games in this league, I wouldn’t say there was that big a gap between the teams. In terms of the league table, we shouldn’t be concerned with that. We need to be concerned with the teams in and around us for the top six,” said Naismith.

“Last night has got to be the point where we roll our sleeves up. With the remaining fixtures before the split, we make sure we make that top six. The last few results haven’t been good enough – simple as.

“In the final third, we weren’t good enough last night. We didn’t make the most of our opportunities. We got into good positions and then let ourselves down, either with the chance or our decision-making.

Hearts manager Craig Levein shouts instructions from his dugout

Hearts manager Craig Levein shouts instructions from his dugout

“If you look at the two goals we conceded, it’s not like us. Especially given we were on that good run. That’s the disappointing thing.”

Hearts manager Craig Levein admitted he couldn’t argue that the points gap between the Capital clubs is a true reflection of how their seasons have gone. “It’s hard for me to say ‘no’ because the points tell a story,” he said.

“This game was typical of how the season has gone for both teams. We didn’t manage to gel and Hibs kept at it. They got a couple of goals through persistence more than anything.”

Levein left Easter Road angered by sub-standard defending at both Hibs goals - scored by Scott Allan and Jamie Maclaren. The Tynecastle boss criticised his players for not dealing with two throw-in situations in the second half.

Hibs won their fifth successive home derby by coming to life after an even first half. Levein felt Hearts didn’t communicate or react quickly enough at throw-ins and were punished accordingly.

“I’ve plenty things to complain about, mainly the defending for both goals,” he said. “I thought the game was very even. I didn’t think there were many chances. We competed as much as they did but we lost two goals from not doing our jobs properly at throw-ins, which is really frustrating.

“We did reasonably well until we got into the final third. Our best players could have done better - guys who have experience. Mainly up front, we could have done much better. We had opportunities to play the final pass or hit the target and didn’t do it.

“The frustrating thiing is we competed, went toe-to-toe, didn’t feel we were under any pressure at all. Losing those goals was sickening.

“Hibs played exactly how I expected them to play. We just didn’t do well enough in possession of the ball. We were better than we have been recently. In the last third, when we had opportunities to play a composed pass, we ended up rushing things.

“We defended well. We went man-for-man at times and John Souttar and Christophe Berra dealt with the threat until those two throw-in situations. It’s something which is really annoying.

“Our play broke down in areas where I thought we would be better. Everybody can have a day when things don’t quite work for them. I can’t accuse the players of not competing. I thought it was a very competitive match and both teams were up for it. The frustrating thing is we didn’t have composure when we needed it.”

Adding to Levein’s woes was a hamstring injury to teenage midfielder Harry Cochrane. He was forced off in the first half.