Steven Naismith demands Hearts pile on Celtic stress as boss warns title chasers 'we don't fear you'

Steven Naismith has urged fearless Hearts to ramp up the title stress on Celtic.

The Tynecastle boss wants his side to rack up a hat-trick against the champions. And Naismith knows the pressure of the flag fight could have a bearing on proceedings in Glasgow’s East End. The hosts are desperate to stay in pole position for the Premiership crown. But Naismith is aware that could significantly alter the dynamic of the contest.

Hearts have won the last two meetings and the boss explained: “This is probably different to the other games we’ve had against them because of where we are at in the season. We know it will be a really tough game. Celtic have had a couple of results that haven’t gone their way and then it has turned into a title race. That pressure will be there and we have got to try to use that. At this stage, with four games to go, they are in the best position to win the league. That’ll be their motivation, just need to keep winning.

“That’ll be Celtic's mindset from the start, but, as the game develops, whatever way it goes is when that changes. It either goes to where they can be comfortable and try and control the game or, if we are controlling the game and ahead in it, they either need a reaction or the pressure builds.

“As they say, it is the business end of the season and one slip from either team is going to give the other one the opportunity to capitalise and win the league.”

Naismith has been delighted with the two previous wins over Celtic this term, but says it doesn’t change the mentality going into this one. There’s never been any fear of the fixture in the past as he said: “I’ve not found that at all this season in any of our games. The players have felt that belief and then you see the performances. In some of our performances, we have not played well, but we have not shown any fear going into any game.

“The more you play in these games and the more you compete and get results, it gives you the feeling that you deserve to be there and that you can do it. We’ve done it twice against Celtic this season so we have got a lot of belief. But, like we have done in the other games against them, we have to be good in and out of possession because there will be times where we need to defend.

“We need to be comfortable when we defend and then we have got to still carry a threat. That’s what we’ve done in these games and we have scored goals, which have obviously got us the wins.

“Every game is an opportunity and I think what we’ve shown this season is that we can compete in these games and that has been the foundation of what we have done this season.”

Victory last time at Celtic came immediately after Naismith had hammered his team for a loss at Aberdeen. It sparked an 11 wins in 12 game sequence, but he said: “It was definitely a big moment in the season for us. But, all the way along to that point, I did believe, I thought in a lot of our games we were unlucky, or it was a small moment that cost us.

“But with that brings the pressure and pressure builds because you are not winning games. We were at Aberdeen and were 1-0 up and then we lost it from being bullied.

“That brings its own negativity, but I always felt we were progressing in the right direction. Did I feel the Parkhead game and result was going to be the start of a really good run? I probably didn’t. But I did go in believing we could get a really good result.”