After shipping six at Ibrox – four in the last 16 minutes of the match – and then needing extra-time to secure a 5-3 victory over Morton in the Betfred Cup, the head coach admitted they’d been punished for slacking off in both games.
Ahead thanks to goals from Scott Allan and Josh Vela against Morton, Hibs were pegged back by half-time and again on the stroke of full-time before securing a place in the last eight of the cup.
While thankful to have earned that quarter-final tie against Kilmarnock, Heckingbottom insisted the lapses on display in both games was unacceptable.
He said: “We go in 2-2 at half-time and it should have been three or four to us. That’s a reminder of what happens when you try to cheat on things, you’re not honest, you don’t do all the hard work.
“I am pleased we came through it and having watched the game back, we always should have, but you are going to get punished for those sort of things.
“We did it against Rangers in the last 20 minutes. The whole game wasn’t great, but that was shocking unacceptable defending and then, against Morton, that was a reminder again.
“It was two lapses, two moments where, because the game had got a bit easier, we stopped tracking runs and you are just hoping the ball doesn’t get to him, hoping that he won’t make a mistake or he won’t finish.”
Admitting he may never see the perfect performance from his side, Heckingbottom insisted there was no reason not to strive towards that goal, adamant they are capable of producing much better displays.
“We have signed good footballers,” he said. “So we want them to work hard and get better at defending. We want a team that is going to be really creative and really good to watch, to take chances in possession - but we want them to also be good at winning the ball back.
“We have to get better at winning the ball back, and it’s not just the back four, as such, it starts from the front.”
Heckingbottom was happy enough to see his side score five against Morton but he was adamant there should have been more, claiming Flo Kamberi – who scored twice – might have doubled his tally, while Fraser Murray had also had a couple of chances and the post was struck.
He said: “The game should have been out of sight, but it wasn’t because we took our foot off the gas. We want to make sure that for 90 minutes we give the perfect performance.
“Will we ever get that? Maybe not, but we have to try. The way we got through in the end was good but we were pushed to our limit physically, especially the boys just coming back.
“It has reminded us that if you don’t do everything right all the time anyone can get a goal against you.”