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Steven Naismith admits there is nothing he can say to win over his detractors at the moment but the under-pressure Hearts boss remains adamant his side are moving in the right direction overall and can still get themselves into third place.

The Jambos are fifth in the league at the end of the first round of fixtures and were defeated 3-1 by Rangers in last Sunday’s Viaplay Cup semi-final.

Naismith has been criticised by supporters over the past month amid a run of one win from five, although three of those matches were against the big two of Celtic and Gers.

Asked what he would say to those who are sceptical about how his reign is shaping up, Naismith – who took over permanently in the summer – said: “I don’t think there’s anything I can say. Everybody’s got their opinion.

“Everybody thinks they understand what it takes to be successful and what should be done. But when you’ve got a large fanbase, there will be a lot of different opinions within that group.

“When you’re at a big club the criticism will be there when you’re not winning games. Internally we all still believe what we are doing will bring us success.

“We’ve seen progression from where we were in the summer to now. In the games it’s been small margins that have cost us. If we can cut that out, I believe (things will improve). This round of games is important for us.”

Hearts are five points adrift of third-place St Mirren, but can take some heart from the fact Aberdeen and Hibernian – the other two sides to have finished third in the previous three campaigns – have also made inconsistent starts and sit beneath them in the table.

Naismith, who remains irked at the way his team squandered winning positions against Hibs and Rangers last month, still feels third is within his team’s grasp.

“It helps in this situation (that nobody has pulled away in third) but we want to be that team that is having that consistency, putting points on the board and effectively creating a gap,” he said ahead of Saturday’s trip to Motherwell.

“After one round of games, it’s very tight and this next round of games are very important for most teams in the league.

“I firmly believe the club should be challenging for third, being in Europe and trying to win silverware. That’s definitely got to be the aim.

“To get there, you sometimes take a setback, and getting knocked out of the semi-final of a cup is a setback but if we can then go into the next competition and get closer and maybe win it, that shows there has been progress.

“But progression is not going to happen from one day to the next.

“You’ve got to give it time, accept there are good points and bad points, but if you reflect over a period of time and the club is moving in the right direction, that is progress which then leads to success.

“As a player, I’ve been at clubs that have a demand to win. I’ve been at clubs where the style’s changed from one extreme to the other and you’ve got to believe in the process and have a real belief that this will work.

“I’ve been through it and that’s what I draw on. That’s why I believe that we will be successful because I’ve seen it in the past as a player and we’re not far away.”