Hearts in 'brilliant place' ahead of Hibs derby as Steven Naismith insists Ross County gameplan worked to a tee

Hearts' Alan Forrest celebrates scoring to make it 1-0 against Ross County. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)
Hearts' Alan Forrest celebrates scoring to make it 1-0 against Ross County. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

This week’s victories against Kilmarnock and then Ross County took them into the Viaplay Cup semis and above city rivals Hibs and into fourth spot in the Premiership standings ahead of the first capital clash of the season at Tynecastle on Saturday. Recent results also rewarded Naismith’s patience, as he stuck with a game plan that he felt would offer his team the best chance of grabbing another away win.

"For consistency, [this result is] important,” he said after Alan Forrest got his head to fellow substitute Alex Lowry’s 69th minute delivery. “The bigger picture is that we've gone through spells where we've won then lost, but now we've won two back-to-back which is a brilliant place to be when you’re going into a derby."

Although it was a ponderous first half, with little end product, prompting frustration in the away stand, the Gorgie boss said he always knew how the game would pan out and was confident that with the introduction of more of his creative players the chances would come.

"Defensively we were very solid for the whole game. Games in Scotland inevitably have that period where things become a bit more direct, and you have to deal with that.

"We ask our forward players to be in good positions, but for the full first half, although we dominated the game – we were just a bit slow in our attacks. Our thoughts weren't to play a piercing pass forward, but in the second chance we put more naturally attacking players on and they had that instinct to pick that pass.”

The substitutions gave the visiting side greater impetus and kept Ross County pinned in for longer as they poked and probed for the best opening. Ross County came back at them in the latter stages but the defence, marshalled well by Frankie Kent, kept them at bay.

"I felt we were in control for the whole game. Being picky, we could have managed the game better at the end, but it was a good performance.

"We knew the way the game would be at the start, and both teams are very detailed in what they do. As the game goes on, it changes as players fatigue, so we knew that as the game went on we could afford to put more attacking players on when we were in control of the game.

"In the first half we didn't look like conceding, but in the second half more attacking players could drop deeper and give us a bit more urgency. It felt as if it was building, so I think this season we will continue to understand that we don't need to win the game in the first minute.

"I think you can see that the group has a good understanding of how we want to play, which is a good start, and then we have real quality going forward which we're going to need with the injuries we have."

Beni Baningime was restricted to a sub appearance due to illness and Cammy Devlin missed out with a head knock but both should be available for the derby.