Steven Naismith says Friday’s win at Kilmarnock was a statement of intent after the Jambos made it five wins from six.
Naisy bagged Hearts’ second after Sean Clare put the men in maroon in front at a freezing cold Rugby Park, and although Jordan Jones pulled one back from the penalty spot Craig Levein’s side saw out the game with a polished performance to record their second league victory of the season in Ayrshire.
The win keeps the Jam Tarts firmly in the mix for a European spot and despite the top of the league being the most congested its been for years, Naisy believes Hearts are going from strength to strength because everyone is prepared to stand up and be counted.
“We spoke about this before the game,” he said. “We said no matter what, if we took three points on Friday it was a statement of intent. We weren’t going to be that team who plays well one week and doesn’t the next.
“We are showing that form and it has helped that there are boys coming back from injury. Plus the younger guys, the prospects, who were floating about the fringes are now saying ‘I want a slice of the action.
“The players have stepped up. Jake Mulraney, Callumn Morrison and Sean Clare; all these guys are staking a claim and that’s all you can ask for as a manager. That’s been good for him.
“At the start of the season we had a core of 14 genuine players who would start and other guys who would get fed in slowly but now there is 17 or 18 players who want to play and expect to be in the starting team so it is positive but you can't take your eye off the ball.
"With every game that passes, the confidence grows. We are winning games well, playing well and then we are winning games when we are not playing so well, we are just grinding it out and that's the sign of a good team.
"The next games, we need to keep winning. All the teams at the top will start playing each other and then you get into that last bit just before the split and that's when you can really look at your expectations and see what you are going to do.
“The first step was against Kilmarnock, they are ahead of us, effectively it was a six-pointer and we won it and it closed the gap.”