Steven Naismith addressed the reaction of Hearts fans following Sunday's 4-1 defeat by Celtic at Tynecastle Park. Some supporters were unhappy with the home performance and vented their disappointment at full-time.
The Glasgow club took control of the match in Gorgie with first-half goals from Matt O'Riley and Daizen Maeda. Kyogo Furuhashi put them 3-0 ahead early in the second half. Hearts captain Lawrence Shankland reduced the deficit to 3-1 before the visiting substitute Tomoki Iwata scored Celtic's fourth.
Naismith, the Edinburgh club's head coach, spoke about the disappointment and admitted he understood fans' frustrations. "Whenever you drop points at home, there are always boos. That’s a frustration that comes and everyone feels the same," he explained. "The players are frustrated, we are frustrated and so are the fans. The games that we have coming up are really good games and they are ones that everyone wants to play in."
Hearts face Rangers at Ibrox next week before Livingston visit Gorgie. Those two league games precede the Viaplay Cup semi-final with Rangers at Hampden Park. Naismith is clear on where his team need to improve before travelling to Glasgow next weekend.
"We need to defend better, that’s for sure. That’s the biggest thing," he insisted. "We will have a threat in possession and we showed today that when we move the ball and pick the right pass, we can get through the pitch. But if you concede the goals that we have conceded then you’re giving yourself a big task.
"We gave up really sloppy goals. That's the biggest thing in any game. That's the last two games where the goals that we have conceded are not at the level we should be at and where we want to be at. How sloppy they were and when we conceded them were mental.
"It doesn't give you a chance to get into the game when you lose a goal after three minutes. That was the theme throughout the game - all four goals were avoidable. When you are trying to get back into the game and you lose a goal at the wrong time, it kills the game and that's inevitably what happened."There was a bit of everything within the goals we lost. Our intensity when we were closing down wasn't good enough. In the game, there are split seconds where players need to make decisions and, ultimately, they are going to decide whether it's a good action or bad action.
"Every goal today we picked the wrong action and that gave Celtic good opportunities, which we highlighted before the game. The first goal shouldn't happen three minutes within the game. We got it to 3-1 and you are hoping we can build a bit of momentum. We conceded again and that just killed the game.
"We work all week and we do not expect to concede a goal after three minutes. I felt, even after the first goal, we still played. With Kenneth [Vargas] getting in behind, we had opportunities down the sides of them and Alex Lowry picked up some good positions. But then our quality in the final third just wasn’t there today.
"If you respond quickly then the game goes back to neutral but we didn’t. We gave up another cheap opportunity which results in another goal and it becomes much tougher at that point."
Naismith is confident Hearts can travel to Ibrox confidently despite the defeat. He told players they must be motivated for the task ahead. "If you can't be up for these games that are coming up in the next month then you are at the wrong club, that's for sure," he stated.
"When we didn't have anything to hold on to we played with a bit of freedom that got us through the pitch and we created chances and scored a good goal. That's the thing that we have to use for the next two or three games coming up. But, when you are losing the goals we did, it's an uphill task."The contrast from our first half here [against Celtic] last season to this season is a massive difference. Ultimately, that set the tone for the game. Celtic are a good team, but any team in this league if you give up chances like that you are going to concede goals and that's the frustrating part.
"There's maybe only one or two goals we have conceded this season that we have not played a part in ourselves. And that's an issue. If you want to be successful you can't continue to do that."