Steven Naismith sets sights on Scottish Cup glory with Hearts and updates on Craig Halkett injury
Hearts boss Steven Naismith hopes his side can go all the way and win Scottish Cup this year after making it through to the quarter-finals with a comfortable 4-1 win over Airdrieonians.
A Lawrence Shankland double and goals Kenneth Vargas and Calem Nieuwenhof set up a last eight tie away to another in-form Championship side in Greenock Morton, who eliminated Motherwell on Friday night.
Naismith came close to winning silverware as a Hearts player – losing the 2020 cup final to Celtic on penalties – and as a manager he led the side to the Viaplay Cup semi-finals earlier this season, losing 3-1 to Rangers at Hampden.
The Hearts boss is confident his side can avoid the same fate which befell Motherwell at Cappielow in the next round to get another crack at a semi-final at the national stadium as the Tynecastle club look to end a 12-year trophy wait.
"The demands are there," Naismith said over the prospects of Hearts lifting the Scottish Cup this year. "Everybody in the last eight thinks they have a chance. Going away to Morton, people will think we’re favourites but others will think there’s potentially an upset there. If we’re not at it it’ll be difficult.
"One of the disappointing games of our season was the semi-final of the last cup so we want to get to another semi and beyond this time. In the next round the carrot is dangled for going back to the national stadium in a semi-final then it’s about a performance. Even at my time at the club as player we went to the last rounds and were two penalties away from winning one. We’ve been close but no one remembers the close ones it’s the winners."
Naismith was delighted with the way his side negotiated a potentially tricky tie which saw them go 3-0 up on Airdrie inside 20 minutes before seeing the game out in a clinical and professional manner.
"It was a really good performance," he said. "We scored early goals, four goals, and it was a comfortable night. But the pleasing thing was the detail we worked on was right, it worked well and the players executed it brilliantly, whether that was the press, being aggressive and how we did it in the transition moment in our half when we didn’t let it become a 50-50. We found the spare player and our speed of attack was good overall. So it was a good night and I’m pleased with everyone’s performance."
The only dark spot for Hearts was the sight of defender Craig Halkett limping off midway through the first half with another injury only a few matches into his comeback from a year out with a ruptured achilles, but Naismith is hopeful it is not serious. "It’s something with his knee," he explained. "It doesn’t seem to be anything major but we don't know at the moment. We will just wait and see. It gave us a chance to get Kye [Rowles] on."
Airdrie were far from disgraced as they gave Hearts a few scares in defence leaving player-manager Rhys McCabe pleased with his side's performance.
"For large parts we didn’t sit off the game as a lot of smaller clubs might," he said. "We went after them and tried to impose our style.
"We can learn from that level of opposition. £5million or £6million is being banded about Shankland. If you give a player of that quality chances then he’s bound to take them.
"They’re a good side but we wanted to impose our style and make a game of it. I thought we were competitive for large parts and we hit the bar. If we’d been a bit more ruthless with our execution then you never know."
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