Hearts inflict more pain as Partick Thistle confidence dives

Confidence is an important commodity and Partick Thistle need to unearth some soon if they want to excavate the kind of form necessary to escape relegation.

Steven Naismith beats Partick Thistle goalkeeper Tomas Cerny to score Hearts' second goal. Picture: SNS.

Hearts ran right over the top of them on Saturday, establishing a comfortable 3-0 lead by the time the match reached half-time and the fact that they offered little resistance is a justified cause for concern within the club.

“It’s very frustrating when we knew what we had to do and we’re fighting for our lives,” said Thistle midfielder Adam Barton.

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“To start a game like that is just not acceptable. We can’t get away with that as we’re running out of games. We haven’t picked up points for a while.”

They have won just one of their last nine games, that victory coming at the beginning of February, and, on Premiership duty, they have won only once on the road all season, but with bottom of the table Ross County clawing back the gap on the Firhill side to just three points, they know that they need to find a way to turn that around, and fast.

“Everyone knows what they have to do,” added the 27-year-old, right, who last season helped the Firhill side to a top-six finish. “If we could pinpoint the problem then we’d solve it straight away. It’s not that people don’t care, it’s just a lack of confidence. It’s little things like making bad decisions or players not performing as well as they can in training because of 
confidence. If you’re flying high you’ll try things and they’ll come off. Right now even five-yard passes aren’t coming off for us.

“It’s down to the individual. There’s people who go under when they don’t have confidence and that’s one of the big things in football.

“You get to the top by forgetting about it and moving on. Then there’s players who it gets to and they struggle with the pressure. At this stage we’ve been through all the team effort chats and now it’s down to individuals to sort 
themselves out.”

If Thistle are in the battle of their lives to safeguard their top-flight status, for Hearts the short-term ambition is simply to ensure they see out the remainder of their season in the top six.

Having suffered a stutter in recent weeks, in which they were ousted from the Scottish Cup before a derby defeat left them out of the running for a European place, Saturday’s victory was a welcome return to winning ways.

The ease with which they pulled off the win will also bolster belief that they can do enough in their next two games to fend off any challenge from Motherwell and St Johnstone. On top from the outset, they were more fluid, more cohesive than in recent weeks and set a high tempo that was not allowed to drop until the game was out of sight.

The opener came in the 17th minute when Joaquim Adao, Don Cowie and Steven Naismith linked up to play in Kyle Lafferty and, running in on goal, he slotted his 17th goal of the season past Tomas Cerny.

Adao continues to show why manager Craig Levein would love to keep him when his loan deal expires. Breaking down attacks, he is also positive when he sees openings and having chased across the park to close down Baily Cargill in the 22nd minute, he won possession and, despite a slip, made the most of it, getting back up and playing a cross in to Naismith who finished to make it 2-0.

With Thistle all at sea, the third goal was a virtual inevitability. It came in the 43rd minute and was another embarrassing one for the visitors, who failed to deal with a Michael Smith long throw and John Souttar got across the face of goal and beat the keeper with an outstreched leg.

“We started well. It was a good performance,” said Hearts captain Christophe Berra. “Overall we got into good areas with good play. We were great first half, second half they changed formation and got in our faces. They probably got a rollicking at half-time.”