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Steven Naismith hails ‘mentality shift’ at Hearts as team continues red-hot run

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 17 Feb 2024

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Hearts manager Steven Naismith hailed the improvements his players have made to their mentality after watching them beat Motherwell 2-0 to collect an eighth successive win.

Second-half goals from Lawrence Shankland and Kenneth Vargas sent the Gorgie side 14 points clear in third place in the Premiership.

Hearts have won 11 of their last 12 games in a fruitful spell stretching back to December and Naismith insists there have been vast improvement on and off the pitch in that period.

He said: “There has definitely been a mentality shift for sure.

“We go into every game wanting to win. We understand there are times where we need to take risks and there are times like today where we need to be patient.

“You can’t get sucked into a fight or get frustrated. It’s these wee small things that change the mentality and the progression of the team.

“There is definitely a mentality shift in what we expect from each other and also what we expect the outcome to be.

“Yeah there’s going to be bumps in the road and we will get beat and things like that, but I think we will react to those situations better than we would have a year ago.”

After a nondescript first half, Shankland took his goal tally for the season to 25 when he headed in Alan Forrest’s free-kick in the 67th minute.

Vargas wrapped up the points in injury time with a fine finish from close range.

Despite moving to within 10 points of second-place Rangers – who travel to St Johnstone on Sunday – Naismith played down any suggestion of Hearts catching either half of the Old Firm.

He added: “They’re (Celtic and Rangers) still a bit ahead.

“We will get to April/May and if we are fortunate enough to be close then you can dream.

“But for us, we just need to keep winning games and the gap (to fourth place) will be bigger. We know as a squad but it’s week to week.

“The way we managed the game today, our speed of attack, these are the real markers of progression for me which should ultimately lead to success.”

Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell was furious that his players switched off for the opening goal.

He said: “There is real frustration with what feels like our Achilles heel.

“You have the top marksman in the country who is absolutely flying at the moment and we give him the freedom of our box.

“It’s good delivery into our box but, and I said this to the players, you can deal with these moments to 95 per cent of the game at venues like these and you need to be 100 per cent in a game like this.”

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