But, having witnessed an improved performance, which may have reaped richer rewards if his men had been as clinical as their opponents in front of goal, he says it is up to the Hibs to “bridge that gap as quickly as possible”.
“In terms of control, will and skill, we had a lot of it. But we’re out of a cup and we’re extremely disappointed,” said Johnson. “No-one wants to hear me talking about the positives. But I was honest with the players at half-time and full-time and I think our side had a lot of quality in it. We are chasing a couple in terms of their peak performance. But we looked a better unit and a better side than we have done. Hearts are just that little bit ahead of us at the moment and we need to bridge that gap as quickly as possible.”
This loss made it nine derbies on the bounce without a win for the side, spanning the terms of several managers but, while Johnson recognises the causes, he accepts that has been too long. “You look at depth and their subs coming on are a little bit stronger,” he conceded. “They’ve earned that right through the European finances and yes we are trying to bridge the gap. Looking at it 11 v 11 we weren’t a million miles off today. But that depth is an important part of it.”
There could be issues with that as Rocky Bushiri was carried off with, according to Johnson, a possible leg break, while fellow centre-half Ryan Porteous may have played his last match for the club, with a sale imminent.
However, the derby debut of new Australian signing James Jeggo was a positive. “I thought he did well,” added Johnson of the player who joined from KAS Eupen on Saturday. “He turned up yesterday and has had one night’s sleep. Doesn’t know anybody. But we were short in midfield with Joe Newell suspended, Kyle Magennis injured and out for two-three weeks maybe more and Jake Doyles-Hayes is out so it was sink or swim and he did well given the circumstances.”