Jeff's backing errant Zal to bounce back at Hearts

HEARTS manager Jim Jefferies today backed Marius Zaliukas to bounce back from the disappointment of his display against Rangers.

Poor distribution of the ball by the Lithuanian defender contributed to Rangers' second and third goals in last Saturday's encounter at Tynecastle, leaving him dejected come full-time.

The match was his first appearance in a month following a hamstring complaint but the defender is certain to retain his place in the side for Saturday's visit to St Mirren as Hearts seek a victory in Paisley to edge ever nearer to a top-six SPL finish.

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"Marius is a good player," said Jefferies. "There are times when he's brought the ball down and played it out of defence extremely well. On Saturday, when you have people like Davis, Naismith and Boyd hounding you, it isn't easy. The pitches don't make it easy to control the ball either, so I was emphasising the point that we should just play the percentages and not take any chances.

"Marius' first reaction (at Rangers' second goal] was to try and pass the ball to Lee Wallace. It got intercepted and it cost us a goal. Nobody had to tell him he had made a mistake, you could see by his reaction. You can understand what he's trying to do, we aren't criticising him in any way because he's tried to keep us in possession.

"The conditions didn't help with a swirling wind and a bumpy pitch, but you learn from it. I won't be going over the top about it."

Jefferies remains confident of ensuring a top-six place and emphasised that two victories over St Mirren and Kilmarnock will be sufficient to end the challenge of seventh-placed St Johnstone.

"It doesn't matter what they do, it's in our own hands," he continued.

"We have two games, against St Mirren and Kilmarnock. Paisley is a tough place to go but if we can get the same passion and will that we've shown in the last two games it will help us get there. We are definitely creating and looking more threatening than we have for a while."