Steven Naismith was impressed with the “intensity” that debutant substitute Dexter Lembikisa brought to Hearts’ play as they eked out a 2-1 victory over spirited fourth-tier side Spartans in the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup fourth round on Saturday.
The Jamaica international right-back – who spent the first half of the campaign with Rotherham – joined the Jambos on loan from Wolves until the end of the season and the Jambos support got their first sight of him at Ainslie Park when he entered the fray just before the hour mark.
At that point Hearts were leading through Kenneth Vargas’ third goal in as many games but they were pegged back by a stunning equaliser from Spartans midfielder James Craigen before Frankie Kent spared the cinch Premiership side from ignominy when he headed the winner in stoppage time.
When asked about Lembikisa’s encouraging start, Naismith said: “That urgency and intensity I speak about, he gave us it.
“First time he gets the ball, he takes his man on, beats him and puts it in the box. He was also in at the back post a couple of times.
“He’s a good addition for us and that’s why we got him in as early as we could.
“The level he has played at and in the last year, in terms of becoming an international, he’s a good player to have in our squad. And it’s one where you will probably see the best of him as he goes on.”
On the day when 41-year-old goalkeeper Craig Gordon made his first start in 13 months following a double leg-break, another Hearts debutant against Spartans was 16-year-old attacker James Wilson, who came on at the same time as Lembikisa.
Japanese forwards Yutaro Oda and Kyosuke Tagawa were the two players who went off at that point after they failed to shine in the absence of talismanic striker Lawrence Shankland who missed out through illness.
Wilson signed a new contract with Hearts last summer amid interest from several clubs, including Manchester United and Aston Villa, and Naismith felt the teenager merited the chance to go on and help his team find a second goal.
“James came on because we needed him,” said Naismith. “He is somebody who is very intelligent with his movement and he’s a goal threat.
“I didn’t think we had enough goal threat at times and that’s why we put him on.
“He’s somebody who has come in full-time and has to learn and work on the aspects of physically where he is at compared to who he is coming up against. He’s definitely got the intelligence for it.”
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