Steven Naismith responds to Hearts flak as Motherwell defeat poses questions for coaching staff

Motherwell's Bevis Mugabi (centre) tries to seperate a scuffle between teammate Dan Casey (right) and Hearts' Nathaniel Atkinson. (Photo by Sammy Turner / SNS Group)
Motherwell's Bevis Mugabi (centre) tries to seperate a scuffle between teammate Dan Casey (right) and Hearts' Nathaniel Atkinson. (Photo by Sammy Turner / SNS Group)

Callum Slattery’s first half finish sealed the victory for the visitors as Hearts struggled to penetrate in the final third, so much so that Lawrence Shankland’s 86th minute shot straight at goalkeeper Liam Kelly was their only shot on target.

Even Motherwell defender Paul McGinn’s dismissal for a second caution in the 69th minute had no impact on the final result.

Following a demanding run of nine games within the space of a month across domestic and European competition, technical director Naismith hopes the recess allied with time to work on issues on the training pitch will have a positive impact when they return to action against Aberdeen on September 16.

“This break gives us a chance to work on things,” said Naismith, whose team was booed off at full-time after losing for the second successive time in the Premiership. “It has come at a time where we have played a lot of football.

“We have had an intense period of loads of competitive games, which has helped people get up to speed. But it has been intense so it gives us time to reflect and understand what we actually want to do.

“Do we want to be successful? Are we first of all going to be hard to beat? And secondly, are we going to play that front foot football where we are more concerned about causing other teams problems than we are about giving up chances?”

Asked about the criticism from fans at full-time, which included flak at Naismith himself, he said: “The fans will be unhappy because they have seen something that has been consistent the last few league games.

“But now we have this period we can continue to work to refresh and get back to where we need to be. We are going into a tough period of games and the demand will be we need to win games and having lost two league games in a row we need to.”

Naismith also hinted that there could be a reshuffle of the job titles in the Hearts dugout. He was named ‘technical director’ during the summer due to his lack of a UEFA Pro Licence qualification, a prerequisite for overseeing games in Europe.

They do not have to worry about that anymore after exiting the Europa Conference League in a heavy 4-0 defeat away to PAOK of Greece last Thursday.

Frankie McAvoy, who had been assistant under Naismith in their interim roles at the tail end of last season, has held the title of head coach during the start of the campaign.

Naismith added: “We’ll probably go into more detail on that next week. At the moment we’re just looking at what’s been a bad weekend.”

Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell refused to get carried away by the sight of the Steelmen being joint top of the table with Celtic.

He said: “It doesn’t mean anything if I’m being honest. I did speak to the players about pushing boundaries as much as we can and I think as a short-term goal, coming to Tynecastle and getting a clean sheet and winning is pushing the boundaries for a club like Motherwell.

“We’re not going to look at the league table or speak about it as a group. For supporters and people outside our club it’s a big story and it’s something to talk about.”