IT was a moment that rather summed up a terrible day at the office for Hearts. Trailing Motherwell by two goals to nil, manager Robbie Neilson made a triple change in an attempt to inject some life into his uncharacteristically off-colour team.

The trouble was that when the board went up, the wrong number was displayed, leading to full-back Alex Cochrane leaving the pitch behind the Motherwell goal and applauding the large travelling support as he trudged round to the dugout, only for striker Lawrence Shankland to eventually inform him he hadn’t been subbed off at all.

In fairness to Cochrane, he admits that any one of the 10 outfield players could have been hooked during a desperately disappointing afternoon for the Jambos, with only goalkeeper Zander Clark perhaps emerging with any credit.

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"That's something I've never seen before,” Cochrane said. “It summed up our day, I think.

“My number did go up. They meant to put 29 up but 19 actually went up. I was oblivious to it, just walking off the pitch, and then I heard Shanks call my name to go back on. It's something I've never seen in football before - being subbed off then subbed back on again.

"It wasn't the best performance from us, we know that as a team and we spoke about it. We need to win these games if we want to be in that third position. It wasn't a good day for us.

"Motherwell make it tough whenever we come here. We were a bit slack with passing, everyone could have been a bit braver going forward, including myself. We all know we weren't at the races and we're all disappointed with the result.

“We have to dust ourselves down and go again. We've got next weekend off, then we've got a big game against St Johnstone, then Celtic back-to-back. There are big games coming up for us.”

The magnitude of those games has been heightened slightly further still by something of a resurgence in form on the other side of Edinburgh, with Hibernian remarkably now just five points behind their city rivals.

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Cochrane though says that any assumption Hearts already had third place sewn up has only been external, and that the poor showing at Fir Park was not a necessary wake-up call, denying that complacency had set in.

"I don't think so,” he said.

“We've been on a good run and this was an off day. We can't be having any more of them. It wasn't our best performance and everyone in the dressing room knows that.

"We never thought third place was done and dusted, there are still plenty games to go in the season.

“Yes, it's five points [to Hibs]. It's a gap but we need to make sure we keep that gap. We've got big games coming up, so we need to make sure we are right at it.”

Unfortunately for Hearts though, they will be left to lick their wounds from the Motherwell defeat for an extended period, with no match this weekend due to the Viaplay Cup Final.

Cochrane thinks that may be no bad thing though, affording them an opportunity to reset and get back to their old selves.

“There will be a few days off so it's obviously a chance to recharge the batteries and go again in a couple of weeks' time,” he said.

“It's a good chance to see where we are but we know that, on the training pitch, we need to put in the work.

“We will speak about this game but as soon as that's done then we need to move on quickly - focus on ourselves and then hopefully the rest takes care of itself.”