Heart of Midlothian head coach Steven Naismith spoke to the press ahead of his side's Premiership encounter with Livingston at Tynecastle Park on Wednesday evening.

He spoke about the importance of a win against Livingston and starting on the front foot, why his view hasn't changed over the Rangers penalty from Sunday while discussing VAR and refereeing and provided an injury update.

Here is everything he had to say...

READ MORE: Predicted XIs: Could Liam Boyce return for Hearts against Livingston?

Have the last few days been mental as much as technical?

Yeah, we did so well and the performance, and how we set up, and how the game played out, everything we worked on. But it is fine margins. There are loads of positives and in time they will come out and we will use them later in the week but it is the two goals in quick succession, similar to the derby, these really small mentality things. You will not go to a tougher place than Glasgow when they get a goal and a bit of momentum. I have been there and experienced it and the crowd drive it forward but you have got to be smart in those moments. It is a question of could we have done better? The answer is we probably could have in some moments. 

How do you get the players to focus back on this one v Livingston?

I think it’s easy because we have gone two league defeats in a row. We have got to use that. We know that is not the level we want to be at, that’s not the level of expectation here. We have got to come back and our full focus has been on this game, it’s got to be on this game, and with it being a home game we need to be on the front foot. The game can go one of two ways and if we are slow and it is a slow start to the game then the atmosphere and the dynamic within the stadium changes. But if we start fast and we are playing in their half then we give the crowd something to be confident about. That’s really important. But we can’t look any further on from this game because we need a win. We want a win. This is a good chance to get one.

For the weekend, you need to go into that with confidence. The way to do that is to win?

Boys will be thinking that with every week that passes more boys are getting closer to being fit, more who are fit, and competition for places is there. The team at the weekend did really, really well but the team that plays against Livingston will face a different game and then on Sunday the dynamic will be slightly different again. So there is competition for places.

You mentioned the dynamic around the fans, is that something you have spoken to the players about?

I have mentioned it a lot since I’ve been taking the team and I think it is such a big part of things, the demands at this club, they don’t come much greater other than probably the Old Firm. When you are on the back of two league defeats the mindset is: ‘This better be good or we’re not going to be happy’ and that is simply a fact. Again, I have been there as a player and I understand it so you’ve got to prepare as a squad. You can’t just say it one day and the next day it will be a case of ‘ah, no problem, we’re fine’ and suddenly you’re able to deal with it. It is a process and you have to understand there is a pressure there and figure out how to deal with it. What do you do? How do you turn things more to your advantage at the start of the game or with 10 minutes to go? You have to understand that and it is not just a case of saying: ‘aye, aye, I’ll be fine’, it’s bigger than that.

READ MORE: Analysis: How Hearts let early lead slip against Rangers

Talking about losing late goals, is there something you can work on with that? Is that tiredness, mental or physical or something you can work on with games going on for longer.

I think it’s a combination of things because what happens with Rangers in the 85th minute is that they are losing 1-0 so they overcommit and give you more opportunities if you win the ball and make some passes so while you don’t work on that specifically because you don’t know what things will be and how it is going to work out but you do have to understand that if we have the ball and they’ve not got it then they can’t win the game. The last goal is one where I don't think we lost a header in the box the whole 90 minutes, we defended our box really well at times and it was just that one moment. Could we have put more pressure on the ball before it comes into the box? And, then there was just one guy in the box so could the dynamic have been different ithin that, could we have blocked the guy out and let the ball go out the pitch? So, it is a hard one. But it is just about having a focus on what’s needed because when you are at the side of the park, you can’t get the instruction on and you are relying on the guys on the pitch to understand and make the right decision and see the game out.

Going back to Sunday, have you changed your mind at all about the penalty?

No, I’ve not. I’m going off the meetings we had at the start of the season with the referees in terms of what happens with blocking and what happens in the box with an infringement that causes something. It doesn’t change what I think. It’ll not change it but there’s no point going on about it now. It’s not going to change. In the past it doesn’t seem to have changed things and now it doesn’t seem to change things. I’m sure we’ll be sitting here talking about it in a month or two with regards to something else.

Is the hope that by raising it means blocking will be looked at by VAR?

I’m not sure. At the start of the season it was a big thing. I understand how it all happens in games. The phase of blocking someone or doing x, y and z at a corner happens. It’s a phase, it comes back in years to come. I highlighted it in the meeting with the referees at the start of the season, with an example of a goal we lost. I said if these types of things happen what is the outcome. They said VAR will look at it and VAR will check it. It didn’t happen, as simple as that. You see it more and more now, is it worth going on about it because it doesn’t change anything. It’s not going to change one week to the other either. The change will be at the winter break or the summer for next season.

READ MORE: Hearts injury latest as Steven Naismith provides squad update

Would you feel the need to raise it officially with the SFA?

I’m not sure you get an outcome from it. It’s a case of moving on and focusing on Livi and it is what it is. It’s going to take more than me talking about it to get any change.

Are they going to need someone in that VAR who has played football?

I’m not sure it’s as simple as a guy who’s played the game knows. My opinion on a foul on a forward is different to a defender because I was a forward and I know what the contact is like and they know what the tackle is like. You’re better stripping it back to crystal clear things to having a pro.
But it’s the inconsistency of week to week. We’re seeing the same things all the time. Similar instances and months later the decisions on the pitch are different. That’s the problem.

Has VAR changed refereeing for the better?

I’m not sure. I’m for it. I think you can look at other sports like rugby and you’ve got to use everything. You can’t stop the referee refereeing the game. The bottom line is make the right decision and who cares who makes it. Whether it’s a fourth official, an assistant or the ref or VAR. Get the right decision and move on. That’s my opinion, I don’t know how you get there. But the way it is now you’re talking about it all the time - Scotland games, English Premier League, our league, all the time.

Be more open like rugby and listen in?

I think it would help. It gives people an understanding. Referees have got battered after every game, like players and coaches. They get battered by social media because people don’t understand. Someone grabs an angle and says that’s a disgrace because of x, y and z. But if they’ve heard it what they thought might be the same as the ref. But why would they put themselves in that position when they know they’re going to get battered. I think it would help.

What do you expect from Livingston?

It’ll be a tough game. Their results lately haven’t been great but their manager has lots of experience in the league. The group of players have mainly been around for a few years and they never panic when they’ve had a few bad results. They work really hard and they’ll make it difficult for us. They’ll go direct at times but they’ve also got midfielders who try to play a bit of football. We have to put pressure on the ball as quickly as we can so it stops a lot of that as soon as the turnover happens. But they’ll have a threat and be dangerous. The main focus has to be on us. We have to be better than we were in the Celtic game, we have to be more like the Rangers game in terms of attitude and desire and then have calmness when we get the ball.

Anyone likley to come into the first-team reckoning this week?

No but they areback on the training pitch, [Craig] Halkett, Craig [Gordon], Barrie McKay has been out running which is very early days. The only one that comes back in is [Alex] Lowry from the squad at the weekend and the boys who came off, Toby [Sibbick] and Odel [Offiah] have recovered quite well and trained so it’s not as if they’re ruled out.

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