Craig Levein last night saluted his players and claimed they had atoned for embarrassing themselves seven days ago.
Hearts are the first name in the hat for tomorrow’s Betfred Cup quarter-final draw after a 2-1 win over Motherwell in often monsoon conditions at Fir Park.
One negative on an otherwise extremely positive evening for the Tynecastle side was a first-half injury to Jamie Walker. He rolled an ankle and now joins teammates Steven Naismith and John Souttar on the sidelines. But Hearts responded well to the Walker blow and scored two goals in five minutes before half-time through Michael Smith, who battled through a bout of tonsillitis, and Conor Washington, who opened his account for the club from the penalty spot in first-half injury time.
Sean Clare had earlier watched his penalty bash back off the post. Substitute Chris Long reduced the deficit on the hour mark but Hearts were generally untroubled as they closed out an important victory following criticism for an underwhelming start to the season, which reached a crescendo after last week’s 0-0 draw at home to Ross County.
“I can’t explain what happened last week,” said Levein. “We were a hell of a lot better than last week. What that did give us was an opportunity to talk about what is expected at Hearts and the performance that’s required. I know the players were slightly embarrassed about their performance – and so was I about my own performance last week.
“The good thing was that the determination was evident in the training all week and I had a good feeling going into the match tonight. Not that we would definitely win, but that we would definitely put on a really good show.”
Levein’s only frustration was yet another injury to an important player. “That’s Souttar had to come off against Aberdeen, Naisy had to come off on Saturday against Ross County and Walker has had to come off all with injuries, which is hell of a frustrating because they are good players and you are suddenly a sub down before you do anything tactically.
“He has damaged his ankle, there is contact and there’s a twist. We need to wait [to find out the extent of the injury]. I thought he was really good at the start of the game and that’s the frustrating thing.”