Steven Naismith has urged his Heart of Midlothian players to draw lessons from Thursday night’s chastening defeat in Greece after the Scots were schooled in the play-off round of the Europa Conference League.

First-half goals from Taison and Brandon Thomas left the Tynecastle side with a mountain to climb at the Toumba Stadium before PAOK pulled clear after the break to seal a convincing 6-1 aggregate victory.

Hearts struggled to get their foot on the ball in the stifling heat of Thessaloniki and were outclassed from start to finish, in stark contrast to the first leg in Gorgie where there wasn’t much to separate the two sides.

Technical director Naismith rued the sloppiness at the back that cost the Edinburgh club dearly on Thursday night, and he believes there are two main takeaways: the team must keep a hold of the ball better, and they cannot afford to be so accommodating in defence.

READ MORE: PAOK 4 Hearts 0: Hosts simply too good as Scots are sent crashing out of Europe

“It was a harsh lesson,” Naismith told Hearts TV. “We created some good chances throughout the two games but when we give up goals that we have at this level with the quality of player [PAOK possess], they are going to punish you, and that’s exactly what happened.

“We knew coming into it we had to be perfect defensively and we weren’t anywhere near where we needed to be, which kills the tie. At half time we need to make some changes to try and give ourselves something back and nullify their threat, but then the third goal costs us.

“The two things that we need to improve and learn from are the quality of chances that we are giving up, and how big an impact we are having on our own team. And secondly, when we have the ball we need to keep it better.

“We got in the game early on and we had glimpses of good passing moves, which then caused problems to them. But then we don’t do enough of it. They then dominate the ball, and then we gave up poor goals that really cost us.

“For the club to grow and get better we must learn from these moments. You need to be repeatedly getting here to put better performances in and make the group stage. That’s inevitably the process for us all.

“We need to learn from it and that’s what I said to the players. You work hard to put yourself in this position and then it’s gone for this season, so the only thing that can make that better is going and putting in performances in the league and doing the same again to get ourselves this same opportunity next season.”

Hearts will be provided with an opportunity to do precisely that on Sunday when they host Motherwell in their final cinch Premiership fixture before the international break – a tricky fixture, given the Steelmen’s strong start to the league campaign and the battling qualities Stuart Kettlewell has instilled in his team.

Securing three points would certainly help to lift the mood around Tynecastle following an inconsistent start to the season, and Naismith is convinced that his players will not have any difficulty in lifting themselves after the sobering defeat to PAOK in midweek.

READ MORE: Hearts need to 'lift the level' to raise roof against PAOK - Frankie McAvoy

“It will be a tough game,” Naismith added. “Motherwell are a team that have slightly changed the way they play compared to last season and they will cause us problems.

“But if you want to be a big club that’s competing in Europe and playing in midweek games and at the weekend, then you need to get yourself up for it – and that’s what they players will need to do.

“After the game on Sunday we have got a bit of a rest, but we need to take care of Sunday’s performance first.”