Steven Naismith met the press ahead of Heart of Midlothian's trip to Ibrox on Saturday as the Premiership's two most in-form sides meet in Glasgow's south side.

The head coach was asked about facing the league leaders away from home, closing the gap with the Old Firm, instilling belief in his players - and whether he was frustrated with Hearts' early-season form as he could have otherwise been in the midst of a title race.

Here's everything Naismith had to say.

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With Rangers now top of the league, is there an added pressure that comes with that that you can take advantage of?

The pressure is there. I think it’s the first time in years - probably going back to when I was a player - that you have a proper title race. The year Rangers won it was done four or five games from the end, and every other year Celtic have won it quite comfortably. The dynamic of the title race definitely changes. From my experience it’s intense: it’s intense week-to-week, it’s intense during games when you know the impact the result has. So that pressure is going to be there. It’s not about whether we take advantage of it. We need to go into the game the way we have against every team. But more so the games against the Old Firm. With our game plan, how we want to play, what needs to be good. If we do that then a consequence is that pressure builds. That’s inevitably the way it works. We’ll see how it goes but it definitely changes of the dynamic in the title race for sure.

With Hearts in great form, do you expect that Rangers will alter their approach? What kind of mentality are you expecting from them tomorrow?

I don’t think they will change from what they’ve done in every game. The manager has shown whether they’re playing in Europe, the league or the cups that he doesn’t change. He’s got the way he wants to play and I imagine that will be the same again. The way we’ve prepared is the way we expect them to play. It will be tough, they are in form and the manager has definitely come in and put his marker on everything. It’s clear to see that in their performances, how he deals with players, how honest he is. That’s the type of manager you need at the type of club Rangers is. That’s why the results have been so good. We know what we will face but for us it’s about continuing what we’ve done. How we focus on every game. That’s how we believe we will get a result.

Could he not say something similar about you?

I’ve got a good belief in what I want to do and what I think we can achieve. I’m realistic.  We’ve come up against his Rangers side three times and he has been a good, older manager for someone like myself who is young. He’s approachable, gives you the time and speaks to you. For any young manager that’s gold. There’s so much value in it. His teams show his character. That’s for us to deal with and to think about how we can hurt them.

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Is it easier to get that message across and give players belief after winning at Celtic Park?

That probably comes with the mentality. When I was a player there was rarely times we went to Celtic Park or Ibrox with a real belief and optimism that you could get a result. I identified from the off that needed to change. How does it change? We drew at Ibrox last season, we won at Celtic Park this season and were really close to a win at Ibrox earlier this season. So doing the work before those games, getting through them and getting the results we did and the performances we did inevitably brings belief. That’s where we sit at the moment. But the small margins is what killed us last time at Ibrox. That could be the same this time, we could play unbelievably well but one moment costs us. Will we win, draw, lose? Who knows, but what we will do is go with a fight, desire and concentration of what we need to do. I think we’ve shown that in all the games. We’ve shown there’s a concentration with us now and that’s a mentality shift.

Andrew McKinlay has challenged you to get closer to the Old Firm. A win could show that the gap is closing?

Whether results-wise shows that over this season, I think we have. It goes back to the mentality shift – that’s the biggest thing. In both games against the Old Firm where they have a bigger budget, the demands are of winning the league and what they carry is one thing. But then the pressure of playing at home - our last two games against Motherwell and St Johnstone have effectively been the exact same game. Both teams have sat really deep and tried to counter us, one was at home and one was away. That is what we are now facing. That mentality change is just as important as trying to compete and beat the Old Firm in a game. I think we will look back at the end of the season and see where we are but there has definitely been a shift in that. Our belief and understanding of the game has changed from the summer.

Is it refreshing for the players that they won’t be against a team that’s sitting in?

The challenge is different. Much different. You won’t have the ball as much. We had 70 per cent against Motherwell. You are not going to have anywhere near that. But the challenge going into the game is to have more than what we’ve had in the past in terms of possession. And then it’s about recognising when we can attack, when we can frustrate them. When there is not an opportunity to attack, what do we do to create one? All these small things. If you can develop them and make them good then it gives you enjoyment. We set challenges going into every game of what it will be like and what we need to do, and the players seem to have enjoyed that and it gives them an understanding. But it will be tough.

Phillipe Clement mentioned the atmosphere can change if Rangers lose the first goal, does that help you?

I think when you play at Ibrox and Celtic Park, we’ve got the same demand at home.  Our crowd is demanding and if we are not winning by half- time we know what the feeling can be. It’s the same there. We will reference it but ultimately that is not going to get us the win. It’s how we do on the pitch, what we do with the ball and how we go about defending and how organised we are off the ball. But it is something there that can be useful if it turns out that way.

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What’s the latest on Craig Halkett? Has he seen a specialist?

No. There is a follow-up appointment he has to go to, so there is not really any update on him. All the news so far is that it is not something serious but it is just about fitting this second appointment in.

Are Boyce, McKay and Haring still out?

They’re all the same. Progressing but a wee bit away. Tagawa comes back into the group after the concussion protocol. Everyone else is fit and available.

The rugby team are training at Oriam and they have also got a big game this weekend, do you ever have a word with Gregor Townsend?

I have not caught up with him since we have been here. You see the players about but we have not managed to have a chat. I know from speaking to Steve Clarke, whose had a few conversations with him, that he is a very intelligent person as well as an intelligent coach. I have heard some of the stories from him. But I have not personally managed to sit down with him.

Is there any frustration that if Hearts had started the season better then you could have been involved in a title race just now?

No. The first part of your question, we needed to go through that. I have not been anywhere where someone gets the job and it is bang! From the off, everything is perfect. There are so many instances where it takes time. I am not going to sit here and say what if?  What I took positively from that early start was that a lot of the games we lost or drew we were the makers of our downfall. St Mirren away we give the goal, Dundee away we give the goal, the goal against Motherwell at home was a poor goal to lose. That’s what I took from that and I think we had to go through that to get to where we are now. The fixtures and the results have been really good, and the consistency has been there. For me that’s the challenge, to be able to do that consistently. If you do that, if you keep continuously winning your games, the gap below you gets bigger but the gap above definitely gets smaller. Now we are three points off the total points we got all of last season. If we can get better than that, that’s improvement. If you continue to do that then that gap gets smaller. I have been there as a player at Kilmarnock and at Rangers, it sounds easy to do, but it is not. It is very hard to bring that consistency. For us that is the challenge - to just continue being more consistent.