Hearts head coach Steven Naismith praised his players for delivering the win fans demanded against Livingston at Tynecastle Park. The 1-0 victory lifted the Edinburgh club to fourth in the Premiership table, four points behind third-placed St Mirren.
Hearts had to wait until 79 minutes for a breakthrough when substitute Kenneth Vargas arrived at the back post to convert Jorge Grant's low cross. They controlled 77 per cent of possession during the evening and had 25 attempts at goal - 10 of which were on target. Livingston goalkeeper Jack Hamilton pulled off several excellent saves against his old club, otherwise Hearts would have won by a greater margin.
"The biggest and most pleasing thing for me is the patience we showed. I’ve been here many a time when it gets desperate and you’re firing long balls in and shooting from 40 yards," said Naismith. "But there was real control. We were unfortunate not to go in at half-time a goal or two up. That can lead to players being desperate or making the wrong choice but we continued to do the same stuff create chances and we got our rewards in the end.
"I was pretty comfortable. You can hope you will get the goal but I was quite confident the way the game was going, they were getting deeper and more spaces were happening. Our fresher players came on and they produced."
"It’s probably one of the biggest things being at Hearts is understanding the demands. It’s not about: 'If you are not winning within half an hour it’s not good enough and the fans are on your back.' If they can see what is happening and they understand what you are doing then this is a great place to play.
"Teams are going to come here and sit and frustrate and try and counter-attack. We continued to play with good pace and the structure was really good. We had nearly nine or 10 players in the final third half at times which is important to move the ball and make chances. There’s guys who may not get the ball but they make spaces for others. All these things played their part in a good team performance."
Naismith told the Evening News earlier this week that Vargas needed a bit of respite from the starting line-up. He profited from a chance to start on the substitutes' bench and came on to score the winning goal. "I said during the week he’s unfortunate," explained Naismith. "He’s a guy who we’ve relieved on more than we should have for a young player. He’s done a lot of hard graft without reward. He’s a real talent with loads of quality.
"Tonight everyone is buzzing because he scored but he wins a header in the 95th minute when we are defending a corner. He’s a top player. He will be a top player and he got his rewards for being patient. I’m very pleased for him. It was a deserved winner.
"It was an important win not just for the weekend [against Rangers in the Viaplay Cup] but for the demands of the club. If you draw at home it’s not going to be good enough in a lot of matches. So it’s a good win because of that. Secondly, it’s been a good week in terms of the majority of the performance at Rangers. Tonight’s performance and win gives us a good bounce for Sunday which will be an important game but one we are confident about."