Steven Naismith sets the challenge for Hearts players with a warning after a dramatic Viaplay Cup win at Kilmarnock

Tynecastle head coach wants his team to take the next step after reaching the last four
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Steven Naismith implored the Hearts players to get used to the club’s demands following a dramatic 2-1 Viaplay Cup quarter-final win at Kilmarnock. Alex Lowry’s winner in stoppage-time decided the tie after Brad Lyons’ header cancelled out Jorge Grant’s opening goal at a sodden Rugby Park.

Hearts now head to Hampden in the semi-finals having arrived in East Ayrshire with only one win from their previous six matches. An improved performance offered hope that this result can change their recent fortunes. “It feels good, we’re delighted to get through, it was the next step we needed to take,” said Naismith, the Tynecastle head coach. “At this club there’s a demand to get to semi-finals and finals and ultimately win silverware.

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“I’m happier with the performance than the result, I thought we were really good. We were the better team in the first-half, scored a really good goal. Then they scored a good goal and we can go one of two ways – we either go flat and safe and it becomes hard or we continue to play the way we want to play.

“When Kilmarnock scored the momentum changed but we stemmed that flow and had a few attacks ourselves. Our season has either been really entertaining or flat performances and it’s now about getting that on a more consistent basis.

It’s a big win and everybody’s delighted but we do need to back that up. Over the past few seasons, we haven’t had good performances at Kilmarnock and Ross County has been the same.”

Naismith doubled down on the need to build a consistent run and warned that players who can’t handle expectation will not stay at Tynecastle. “Since I’ve been taking the team there have been moments when we’ve been entertaining but it’s about bringing that consistency,” he reiterated. “Calum Nieuwenhof came in during the summer and has taken time to settle but I thought he was the best player on the park.

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“Odel Offiah is another one who put in a great ball at the winner. There’s a demand on the players at the club – I as a player grew to enjoy that challenge and understand it. You either accept it or use it to your advantage or you won’t make it at the club.

Hearts head coach Steven Naismith issues instructions at Kilmarnock. Pic: SNSHearts head coach Steven Naismith issues instructions at Kilmarnock. Pic: SNS
Hearts head coach Steven Naismith issues instructions at Kilmarnock. Pic: SNS

“It’s a mental challenge, 100 per cent. When you're expected to go to every game and have on a performance and win, that naturally brings pressure. As a player, you either do it or don't. I believe that we have got success in this group.”

Derek McInnes, the Kilmarnock manager, admitted being upset at the manner of his team’s late collapse. “I was angry that we allowed that type of goal to decide a cup tie,” he said. “Hearts deserved to go in front and half-time came at a good time for us as I thought we were going out of the cup with a whimper.

“Then we took charge and had Hearts where we wanted them. Hearts have quality off the bench but we were guilty in the last minute of leaving ourselves open to the counter-attack. We didn't need to try and win the game in 90 minutes and we were guilty of naivety and bad decision-making.”