Steven Naismith says Hearts run should be norm but counts cost of injuries in win over Kilmarnock
Piecing together four league wins on the bounce for the first time in five years, Hearts boss Steven Naismith said that is something that should be commonplace for the Gorgie club.
But having managed to get some consistency in results after a stuttering start to the season, the Tynecastle manager said it was the way his men had adapted to each challenge that pleased him. The capital side were given a helping hand by Kilmarnock goalkeeper Will Dennis, who fumbled a Lawrence Shankland attempted cutback and somehow bundled it into his own goal. That gave Hearts something to hold onto as their hosts fought to get themselves back into the game. But, they saw out the match 1-0, claiming all three points to move into third in the Premiership.
“The four wins is good,” said Naismith, who will need to upset the odds if they are to make it five when Rangers come calling midweek. “Three consecutive wins took two years for us to hit, and this has taken us five years. If I’m honest for a club like Hearts – and I’m sure a few others will say the same – it shouldn’t take five years to go on a run like that.
“But, it’s three points and it keeps us ticking over. The run of games is good but the way we have been dealing with them has been brilliant. Every game has been different in what we needed to do to win. And at the end there you’ve got Cammy Devlin, who has an injury and was struggling to move, not thinking twice about putting his body on the line when he needs to. Credit to the whole squad, it’s a group that’s really together.”
Devlin was not the only one to hobble off the pitch, with a few nursing niggles and bumps. Liam Boyce made an early exit with what the club hopes is a minor leg injury but losing him after just half an hour did upset Hearts’ rhythm and gave Kilmarnock the opening they needed to play their way back into the match. But, they couldn’t do enough with the final shot or pass, leaving Rugby Park manager Derek McInnes frustrated and unwilling to lay all the blame for the defeat at the feet of his goalkeeper.
“It was an unusual goal and not one you would expect any goalkeeper to lose,” said McInnes. “He lost a goal at Dens Park when he came through bodies and didn’t take charge of it but other than that he has been fine. He had a good save at the end when Hearts had their only shot on target. It is a learning curve for him but we had enough chances and we didn't lose the game because of Will Dennis.
"I said that to the team. It wasn’t like the last time, when Hearts scored in the 93rd minute, in the cup, and we didn't have time to punch back. We had plenty of time to fight back this time and we had good opportunities to bail our teammate out and make the scoreline different. That is where we fell short against a good team. But the performance, for the majority of it, I was pleased with. I was just looking for different outcomes.”