Alex Lowry beginning to reach level to earn Hearts starts – Steven Naismith

Steven Naismith (Steve Welsh/PA)
Steven Naismith (Steve Welsh/PA)

Hearts manager Steven Naismith believes Alex Lowry is beginning to put in the level of performances he needs to start consistently.

Against Ross County on Saturday afternoon, the on-loan attacker came off the bench to provide the assist for Alan Forrest’s decisive header, just days after scoring the winner in the League Cup quarter final against Kilmarnock.

While Lowry’s quality on the ball has rarely been questioned, Naismith says it is the lessons he is learning out of possession that will earn him a spot in the starting XI on a more regular basis.

“He probably could be a bit disappointed not to start (against Ross County), but I was thinking more about our structure and I knew it was going to change in the second half,” Naismith said.

“I challenge him all the time to give us an end product and I thought he was really good off the ball today. We can’t have a luxury player, he needs to be in certain positions and I thought he did that really well when he came on.

“For 90 per cent of his youth career he has been on the front foot. He has come in here where teams play more directly than he will have been used to and he needs to learn that.

“A lot of the time when the second ball dropped, he was on it because his positioning was brilliant.

“That’s the part he needs to do consistently and then he can ask to start. He has done that in the last two games, which is pleasing.”

County boss Malky Mackay, meanwhile, felt a draw would have been a fair result after his side left the Global Energy Stadium empty-handed.

He said: “I think over the piece, a draw was probably a fair result.

“We were up against a good team with a big squad of players and I thought we managed the game well.

“We knew the threats they had, especially (Lawrence) Shankland who is a clever player and we managed that really well and thought that as the game went on we would kick on.

“It’s the top end of the park I thought we should have been better. The quality that’s usually there wasn’t today, so that’s probably what I’m most disappointed about.

“The ball went into the final third and didn’t stick as well as it should have and near the end, especially, we have chances but don’t test their goalkeeper and that’s what annoys me. We’ve got to get better at that.”