Fuming Steven Naismith lambasts 'bullied' Hearts players after Aberdeen defeat - 'you can't hide or shy away from these moments'

The Tynecastle boss was livid with the way his team failed to stand up to Aberdeen’s resurgence

Angry Hearts manager Steven Naismith called out his team for being “bullied” and not showing enough character following their 2-1 defeat by Aberdeen at Pittodrie.

Leading thanks to 20th-minute strike from Lawrence Shankland, the Jambos went into their shell in the second half, with Bojan Miovski equalising on 53 minutes before Leighton Clarkson scrambled home a stoppage-time winner. Naismith was livid with his players for the manner of Hearts’ capitulation, with the result – alongside Hibs' 1-0 win at Livingston and St Mirren triumphing 2-0 against Ross County – meaning they slump to fifth in the Premiership standings.

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"I'm extremely disappointed,” said Naismith. “The game starts really well, we are really confident and in full control. To be so far ahead and then be sitting here after a defeat is extremely disappointing. We beat ourselves today, if I'm honest. After being in control for so long and doing so well, we end up getting bullied and that's inevitably what has cost us. As Aberdeen started going more direct, we didn't deal with the first contacts enough or the second balls. Any 50-50 duel, we didn't win enough of them. That gave them a bit of momentum. Ultimately, that's what cost us.

Hearts manager Steven Naismith was left scratching his head at his team's collapse.Hearts manager Steven Naismith was left scratching his head at his team's collapse.
Hearts manager Steven Naismith was left scratching his head at his team's collapse.

"If you want to be a successful team, you've got to deal with that in Scottish football. It's something that does happen a bit in games. You've got to accept it and deal with it. Aberdeen had committed a lot of bodies forward and we didn't do well enough. We showed so much in the first half with how well we did in possession. In the second half, we didn't do the same. That's where a good team picks off the opposition, creates better chances and scores a second goal. We didn't do that. The goals we conceded were really sloppy. We have taken a bit of credit for our defensive displays but today was nowhere near where we've been.

"When they change and just start going long, and committing percentages in terms of bodies forward, that is difficult to deal with, but if you want to be a good team, you need to deal with that. And in those moments when you can play and pick them off, you got to do it better. We didn't do both sides. It's something that is really frustrating, that we are sitting here discussing something so simple. If you are able to commit and beat the guy you are playing against, we could have been sitting here with a different result. Ultimately we need to learn from this because in terms of being bullied, that's not acceptable.

Asked how he can go about fixing that, Naismith continued: "It's a character thing. It's a control thing, when internally there is a bit of pressure. We need to deal with that. We started slashing at clearances when we've got four extra players in that area of the pitch. We didn't play. That you can hopefully deal with but you need to be a tough character if you want to be a successful footballer. You can't hide or shy away from these moments. We need to be that as a group over a period of time. If you're not, then you won't be successful - simple as that.

One positive for Hearts was the return of Craig Halkett, who came on as a sub as Hearts tried to see the game out. It was the defender's first appearance in almost a year due to a knee injury. It was a scant crumb of comfort for the manager, though. “Personally for him it's a positive that he's back on the pitch, but I'm not looking at many positives here as the goals we conceded are soft,” Naismith concluded. “They are rubbish goals, they've not cut us open. It's indecision for the second one and us not dealing with 50/50s for the first one. The first 30 minutes was so good, a lot of really good stuff. The tempo we played at and a lot of what we talked about before the game happened. We're in good control and everybody is feeling good, but the game can't turn that quickly in the second half when they start pumping the ball long.”