Steven Naismith hails Hearts' Kye Rowles after 'challenging' defender over performances and gives injury update on Yutaro Oda

Hearts manager Steven Naismith speaks with Kye Rowles at full time after the 2-0 win over Aberdeen. (Photo: Sammy Turner - SNS Group)
Hearts manager Steven Naismith speaks with Kye Rowles at full time after the 2-0 win over Aberdeen. (Photo: Sammy Turner - SNS Group)

The centre-half has come under heavy criticism for his performances at the heart of defence this season, but the 25-year-old was outstanding in keeping the Dons strikeforce of Bojan Miovski and Duk quiet alongside Frankie Kent. The clean sheet, along with strikes from Yutaro Oda and Liam Boyce, gave Hearts their first home league win of the season and moved them up to fifth in the Premiership. Naismith was delighted with Rowles’ contribution.

"I challenged him before the game because I think in recent weeks he has found it tough at moments,” Naismith said of Rowles’ performance. “I think there have been small moments in games but because of where he plays it gets magnified. He showed today that he is mentally tough to put in the performance that he did. I thought he was really good. But overall our composure at the end of the game, not getting carried away or lacking discipline, showed because Aberdeen never really had a threat.”

Taking charge of Hearts as head coach for the first time since the management structure was officially altered ten days ago, Naismith took comfort for the improvements his players had made during the international break. “It was a really good afternoon,” continued Naismith. “In one respect we needed the break mentally to reset and take stock, in the European games the performances had been good but the challenge is when you come into domestic games you must win and we never dealt with that well enough. You manage to work on some things on the pitch we felt we had to reset and understand again. Our defensive set up has been good but in the last few games we’ve given up some cheap goals. Today was back to where we expected to be. I thought we were really solid.

“When we have that energy and press right and play forward we cause teams problems and that showed. The biggest thing was that it was a collective thing, some of the subs who came on have not had loads of minutes but they did really well and impact the game. In the games I’ve been in charge of, it’s probably the most comfortable I’ve been at the end of a game when it is still alive with it being 2-0.”

The only concern for Hearts was an injury to Oda, who was removed from the action just after the half-hour with a hamstring complaint. “Oda was more precautionary, he felt something very slight but I didn’t want to risk it,” added Naismith. “We’re going into a period of some tough games. He did well at the start but we had the players there ready.”

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