Hearts manager Steven Naismith has defended himself in the face of supporter gripes about the style of play he has overseen this season.
The Jambos have been in decent form results-wise in recent months, winning four of their last six league matches and climbing to third in the cinch Premiership before defeat at Aberdeen last weekend knocked them back down to sixth.
Naismith, who was named manager of the month for November, has come under fire for the brand of football Hearts have been playing and the fact they have managed to score only 15 goals in their 16 league matches so far. Some shareholders raised such concerns at the club’s AGM on Thursday.
The former Rangers, Everton and Scotland forward, who replaced Robbie Neilson as boss earlier this year, insisted there have been flashes of the style he would like to see but he explained that it is not always easy to play in an exhilarating fashion when opponents are intent on disrupting the flow.
“I think the club has moved its position from previous years in that teams are coming to Tynecastle happy for a draw, which means they sit deeper in the pitch,” he said.
“Using the examples of the last two home games (1-0 wins over Livingston and St Johnstone), with the percentage of where the game’s played, it’s very difficult to be expansive and open and very attacking-minded when you’re coming up against 10 players behind the ball.
“You need to win the game in a different manner. That can take time within the game. It takes moving players about and tiring them out before you get the opportunities and I think that’s what our last couple of home games have been like.
“Earlier in the season, if you look at the Aberdeen and Hibs games, our performances in them were good. They were attacking, we created chances and we took the lead in both games.
“We didn’t manage the game well enough in the derby but I would argue that they were entertaining games. I think it’s a mixture of things, personnel and what options we’ve had available has dictated the formation set-up.
“As a player I was an attacker and I want to play attacking football that’s entertaining. But other teams are there to make that more difficult for you.”
Hearts face a tough test as they bid to recover from back-to-back defeats by Rangers and Aberdeen when they visit league leaders Celtic on Saturday.
The Jambos will be without Alex Lowry and Liam Boyce through injury, while Naismith revealed that midfielder Cammy Devlin has no chance of going to the Asian Cup with Australia as he is set to be out until after the winter break with an ankle issue.
“Cammy’s done some damage to his ankle,” said the manager. “I don’t even think he’ll be back in training before the break comes, which is when the squads meet up so I can’t imagine him being involved in the Asian Cup.”
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