Soccer

Steven Naismith wants winning runs to be normal for Hearts

Hearts manager Steven Naismith (Jane Barlow/PA)
Hearts manager Steven Naismith (Jane Barlow/PA) Hearts manager Steven Naismith (Jane Barlow/PA)

Steven Naismith insists successive victories should be standard practice for Hearts after a 1-0 win at Kilmarnock made it four Scottish Premiership wins in a row.

The Jam Tarts moved up to third in the table after a calamitous error by Will Dennis saw the Killie keeper spill Lawrence Shankland’s shot into his own net after 18 minutes.

The hosts enjoyed the bulk of possession as they searched for an equaliser, but a combination of their lack of cutting edge and some resolute defending from Naismith’s side would see them shut out.

“The four wins is good, I know (it was our first) three consecutive in two years, this is five years,” said Naismith.

“If I’m honest, for a club like Hearts and a few other clubs will say the same – it should be normal that you go on a run like that, it shouldn’t take five years.

“The conditions today, the pitch, it is what it is – you need to play a different way and we did it.

“On the AstroTurf pitches, every game is close because you know both teams are going to get a chance, whether that be the bounce of the ball, a slip, whatever – you are going to give up chances.

“I thought we defended really well, we probably gave them one good chance where it could have been a goal. The others, they had a header late on but our positions were really good.”

The Hearts boss remains hopeful he will not be without the services of Liam Boyce for an extended period of time after the striker limped off just before the half-hour mark.

Boyce missed the vast majority of last season with a torn cruciate ligament, though Naismith is hopeful for good news in the next few days.

“I’ve not checked since we came in, but he seemed fine,” he added.

“When he came off he mentioned that he felt something in his leg – it wasn’t as if he knew what it was. Whether that’s a nerve issue or a muscle issue, we’ll see in the coming days.”

Derek McInnes was disappointed after suffering defeat in his 700th game in management.

Killie were punished for being wasteful in front of goal and as a result suffered their first home loss in six league fixtures as well as dropping out the top six.

“I thought the result was really harsh on my team,” boss McInnes said.

“It was such an unusual goal to lose and was obviously a setback for us being at home.

“It wasn’t without its challenges, I thought the pitch was difficult for both sets of players – it was probably bordering on unplayable, it was really icy towards the second half in particular.

“I thought we were the better team but you don’t always get what you deserve, Hearts I think had one shot on target and go away with the points.”

The Kilmarnock manager refused to blame the loss on Dennis, despite the keeper’s glaring error for the Hearts goal.

Dennis has enjoyed a positive start to life at Rugby Park since joining in the summer, though had an afternoon to forget after spilling the ball into his own net and picking up a booking for a rash challenge on Yutaro Oda.

“It’s not a goal you would expect any goalkeeper to lose,” he added.

“He’s lost a goal at Dens Park where he comes through bodies and doesn’t take charge of it – but other than that he’s been absolutely fine.

“He’s been good, it’s a learning curve for him. It’s disappointing he’s lost that but we’ve had enough chances – we don’t lose the game because of Will Dennis and we need to make that clear.”