Heart of Midlothian’s previous trip to Glasgow’s east end was a memorable one for the 900-or-so supporters that made the short journey along the M8. Celtic Park has rarely been a welcoming venue for the Gorgie club, and many travelled to the game more out of a sense of hope than expectation.

But then something unexpected happened: Hearts won. Comfortably, too. Lawrence Shankland’s early headed goal from a corner handed Steven Naismith’s side the advantage before Stephen Kingsley doubled it with an excellent free-kick on 30 minutes, and Celtic were unable to get a foothold in the game as the men in maroon saw out the victory in a thoroughly professional manner.

It was a first league win at Parkhead since 2007 for Hearts, but the performance and the result had far-reaching effects for Hearts. Buoyed by their win over the champions, Naismith’s men went on to win 10 of their following 11 games in all competitions – a 2-2 draw at home to Ross County was the only blot in the formbook – as the Tynecastle club shot up the league table and consolidated their position in third.

Naturally, Naismith insists that he was never short of confidence that his side could take three points in Glasgow – but even he was pleasantly surprised by what followed.

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“It was definitely a big moment in the season for us,” Naismith recalled. “But, all the way along to that point, I did believe. I thought a lot of our games we were unlucky, or it was a small moment that cost us. But with that brings the pressure and pressure builds because you are not winning games.

“We were at Aberdeen [the week before] and were 1-0 up and then we lose it from being bullied. That brings its own negativity, but I always felt we were progressing in the right direction. Did I feel the Parkhead game and result was going to be the start of a really good run? I probably didn’t. But I did go in believing we could get a really good result.

“I feel we have had a belief going into [all our games]. The players have felt that belief and then you see the performances. In some of our performances we have not played well but we have not shown any fear going into any game. We have gone in and tried.

“On days where it’s not going your way the biggest thing is to keep trying and trying to do what it takes to get a result of some sort. The more you play in these games, and the more you compete and get results, it gives you the feeling that you deserve to be there and that you can do it. We’ve done it twice against Celtic this season so we have got a lot of belief.

“Every game is an opportunity and I think what we’ve shown this season is that we can compete in these games and that has been the foundations of what we have done this season.”

Hearts’ season could be practically over when the full-time whistle rings out at Celtic Park. Naismith’s side are 11 points clear of fourth-placed Kilmarnock heading into this weekend’s fixtures and it is surely a matter of when, not if, they will wrap up third and confirm European group-stage football next season.

The same can’t be said of their opponents. With Celtic desperate for a win to maintain their advantage in the title race, Naismith expects Brendan Rodgers’ side to approach this match with the sort of tunnel vision that has helped them get over the line in previous campaigns.

A victory for Hearts would seal three consecutive wins over Celtic for the first time in over 60 years – but Naismith doesn’t think the previous two meetings between the two sides will be weighing on the hosts’ minds.

“I don’t they’ll see it that way,” he explained. “At this stage, with four games to go, they are in the best position to win the league. That’ll be their motivation – ‘we just need to keep winning’.

“That’ll be the mindset from the start, but as the game develops, whatever way it goes is when that changes. It either goes to where they can be comfortable and try and control the game or, if we are controlling the game and ahead in it, they either need a reaction or the pressure builds.

“As they say, it is the business end of the season and one slip from either team is going to give the other one the opportunity to capitalise and win the league.

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“This is probably different to the other games we’ve had against them because of where we are at in the season. We know it will be a really tough game. Celtic have had a couple of results that haven’t gone their way and then it has turned into a title race.

“That pressure will be there and we have got to try and use that. But like we have done in the other games against them, we have to be good in and out of possession because there will be times where we need to defend. We need to be comfortable when we defend and then we have got to still carry a theat.

“That’s what we’ve done in these games and we have scored goals, which have obviously got us the wins.”