Soccer

Stephen Kingsley urges Hearts to start taking games ‘by scruff of the neck’

Stephen Kingsley has not scored since April 2022 (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Stephen Kingsley has not scored since April 2022 (Andrew Milligan/PA) Stephen Kingsley has not scored since April 2022 (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Stephen Kingsley hopes improving Hearts can become more emphatic winners as they bid to assert themselves in the race for Europe.

The Jambos have climbed to fourth in the cinch Premiership after three successive league victories by a one-goal margin.

Hearts have comfortably the best defensive record in the league outside the Old Firm, with six clean sheets and only 12 goals conceded in their 13 matches.

However, Steven Naismith’s side have scored only 13 times, with only three teams, Ross County plus the bottom two of St Johnstone and Livingston, netting less.

“One thing we’ve spoken about, even though we’ve had three good results recently, is that we need to score more goals,” said defender Kingsley.

“We’ve done well defensively and kept a lot of clean sheets this season, so the next thing is to go and really take it by the scruff of the neck and kill teams off as early as we can and make it more enjoyable for ourselves.”

Hearts last weekend made it three league wins in a row for the first time since January 2022.

If they beat Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Saturday – a result that would lift them up to third place – it will be the first time since the start of the 2018/19 season under Craig Levein that they have recorded four top-flight victories on the spin.

“It just shows that we’ve not really shown that level of consistency we need for a long time,” said Kingsley. “Two seasons ago we had a really good run of games where we went into games feeling like we were going to get a win or a positive result no matter how we played.

“We need to build ourselves back up to that. I don’t think any team has shown that level of consistency this season. That’s why the league is so tight and it’s why we’re sitting up in fourth after not having the best of results earlier in the season.

“I think whoever can show that bit of consistency will be the ones who do well come the end of the season.”

Despite being a defender, Kingsley netted 12 goals in his first two seasons at Hearts, including seven in the 2021/22 campaign.

Remarkably, however, the 29-year-old has not found the next in the past 19 months since his sensational free-kick in the Scottish Cup semi-final victory over Hibernian in April 2022.

“As long as we win I don’t care,” he said when asked about his goal drought. “I’d obviously love to get back on the score-sheet and help the boys out, but as long as I’m keeping clean sheets and the team’s winning, that’s the most important thing.

“I had a run of form a couple of seasons ago where I was getting loads of free-kicks and getting chances to score, but they’ve kind of dried up.

“I had a few free-kicks I was disappointed with earlier in the season, but my main job is to be a defender and we’ve been keeping clean sheets so I’m happy with that.

“I really couldn’t care who is scoring the goals as long as we’re winning games.”