Steven Naismith hopes his young players will learn from “cruel” moments in football, as the Wee Jambos fell to a 1-0 defeat at Kilmarnock in their first Club Academy Scotland match of the 2022 schedule.
Aaron Brown capitalised on a Hearts error on 39 minutes to break through the line and tuck the ball past Liam McFarlane. It proved to be the only goal under the lights in Ayrshire.
It was an especially frustrating evening for Hearts, as Mackenzie Kirk saw his second half penalty saved before Killie ‘keeper Aiden Glavin produced another stretching stop at the death to deny a powerful header from Michael Aitken.
Although naturally disappointed with the outcome, Naisy praised his young guns for showing a willingness to maintain performance levels against a robust and well-organised Kilmarnock team.
"I think frustration is the feeling more than anything. We miss a penalty, and their 'keeper makes an unbelievable save. I'd say we probably just shaded it in terms of chances,” he told the Official Hearts Website.
"The pleasing thing is that they're trying to do what we're asking them. They're not trying to shy away from it and they're understanding that they're good players.
"Those are the good things I'm seeing from them and although I'm disappointed with the result, we controlled a lot of the game. It was an individual error that cost us, but overall, I can't ask for anymore from the boys. They tried, they played under pressure and were comfortable with taking the ball under said pressure.”
A critical experience in any young player’s development is games like this where errors cost you, the demands and expectations, something that Naismith knows well.
"A lot of the time when I'm talking to them, I'm thinking about when I was a young player. At the end of the day, the demands we're placing on them are big, but they need to be able to handle those demands if they're going to make it in the professional game. That starts from Under-18s upwards,” he added.
"Tonight's probably one of the cruellest educations they'll have. It’s how they react to that going forward."
Hearts: McFarlane, Aitken, Dall, Tait, Trialist, Kirk, Sandilands, Forrester, Simpson, McLuckie, Nair,
Subs: Paris, Thomas, Williamson, Wilson, Ross, Chisholm, Anderson
Kilmarnock: Glavin, McKnight, Spencer, Holding, McArthur, Watson, Leslie, Mulvanny, Kirkpatrick, Brown, Wales
Subs: Armour, McAuley, R. Miller, A. Miller, Hoffin, Hughes
Goalscorer: Brown (39’)