Hearts manager Craig Levein admitted a potential Scottish Cup fifth-round tie against St Johnstone isn’t what he wanted after eliminating Hibs.
Don Cowie’s late goal took Hearts through in the Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle before they were paired with either Albion Rovers or Saints in the next round.
Levein stated he would have picked a different opponent if he could, assuming that the Perth club would prevail. Hearts have only won two of their last 14 meetings with St Johnstone.
“I would think – I might be wrong – that St Johnstone will win that tie and our record against St Johnstone isn’t great,” he conceded.
“So, if you ask me if I’d have picked a game, I wouldn’t have picked that one. But again, we’re at home and that makes me feel good.”
Levein praised the performances of Hearts debutants Steven Naismith and Demetri Mitchell against Hibs. Naismith arrived on loan from Norwich City, whilst Mitchell made the temporary move from Manchester United.
Both had chances to score – Naismith rolling an attempt wide early in the game before Mitchell’s powerful volley was saved by Hibs goalkeeper Ofir Marciano after the break.
“The game had the same elements as usual. There was a lot of determination, fight and intensity,” said Levein. “The first half was more of that than anything else. In the second half, I thought we were much better than the first. We controlled long spells of the match.
“I think we deserved to win. We had the best opportunities, the most chances and the lion’s share of possession. The goalkeepers were in good form. Marciano’s save from Demi – I don’t know how he got to it.
“We didn’t do what we were meant to do in the first half, which was get the ball to our wide players. We got caught up in battles in midfield and didn’t have the composure to find the spare player and then get it out to the side. We did that much better in the second half and Connor [Randall] and Demi were much more prominent and that seemed to help us.
“I’ve got a good feeling about this group. I had it when we were over in Spain, I had it when we added Steven Naismith and it made me feel better. Ask any player - when good players come into the dressing-room, you think you have to up your standards and also they are here to help.
“Steven and Demi were great, and I say it every week but I thought Harry Cochrane was out of this world. He was fantastic in this match, considering the nature of it, but the two debutants for Hearts were fantastic.”
Levein wanted to recruit Naismith to exert influence on his squad as an experienced international forward. “He’s got a fantastic mentality but that’s the great thing about our senior players. They all have the mentality that they want to help the younger players. During our discussions with Steven, he said that.
“He’s been speaking to Don Cowie and Christophe Berra and he’s just that type. Aaron Hughes is another serious football player who realises he has done very well out of the game and would like to put something back in.
“They are all here on the premise that they are here to be good examples to young players and to help them all they can. He’s just another good one to add to the group.”
The Hearts manager was embroiled in an angry exchange with Hibs winger Martin Boyle in the final few minutes yesterday, but he brushed it off. “He came into our technical area to get the ball. It was nothing. We’ve seen a lot worse.”