Steven Naismith hopes his Hearts side can kick-start their cinch Premiership campaign at home to Aberdeen as the Tynecastle head coach gets to grips with increasing expectations in Gorgie.

The capital club have been a little sluggish out of the traps this season, winning one of their opening four league fixtures, and they were knocked out of the Europa Conference League by PAOK before the recent international break.

That elimination resulted in Naismith, who was previously technical director as he didn’t have the required badges to manage in Europe, being named as head coach last week, while Frankie McAvoy has been appointed as his assistant in the reshuffle.

Naismith insists that his side have made the most of the fortnight off, and the former Scotland internationalist is confident Hearts’ performances will improve – starting on Saturday against the Dons.

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“It’s not so much a clean slate but the break has been good for us,” he said. “It came at a bad time in terms of results but a good time in terms of what we needed to do. If you look back at the first block of the season then I think we have had some good performances but on the back of good performances in Europe, we have struggled with that fatigue.

“Part of the reason we have struggled to deal with it is the expectation to win.  The expectation on a Sunday against Dundee or Motherwell is that we should be winning that game. What we have to deal with internally is the fatigue and the travel, and maybe somebody has a niggle but they’re carrying on but not feeling their best. We haven’t managed to deal with that.

“We’ve not caused enough problems to these teams. We have had a lot of possession but it was safe and Motherwell defended well, even when it was 10 men, and we’ve got to put them under more pressure. We need to find the moments when we can play certain passes, that we think are key passes, no matter the game. That helps you get the chances and we didn’t do that enough.

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“That comes down to being fatigued and thinking you maybe can’t do that so you choose to play safe and before you know it, 20 minutes have gone, 40 minutes have gone, 70 minutes have gone, and the game is running away from you.

“Out of possession we have looked organised and done well to win the ball back, and in the games we’ve carried a good threat, we have been exciting to watch so it is now about getting back to that rather than the safe and slow possession.”

Left-back Alex Cochrane, meanwhile, will be out for at least six weeks after sustaining an ankle injury in training, and winger Barrie McKay remains sidelined for Saturday's match. Beni Baningime and Calem Nieuwenhof are back in training, and club captain Craig Gordon is back on the training pitch as he steps up his recovery from a double-leg break suffered on Boxing Day last year.

Naismith is also looking forward to welcoming Brighton loanee Odel Offiah back to Tynecastle on Monday after the full-back was given the all-clear to return to action. The 20-year-old fell ill in training shortly before the international break and travelled to England to see a specialist, but the Hearts head coach explained that this was purely a precautionary measure.

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“Odel will come back to us next week,” Naismith said. “There were some issues with him feeling light-headed and things like that so we didn’t want to take any risks. Between ourselves and Brighton we have got him to see a specialist to make sure everything is fine and that he can exercise. So he will be back on Monday.

“It was more precautionary than anything else. I think over the last three or four years, it’s been well-documented the amount of players that have had irregularities or that light-headedness. It’s about ticking everything off, making sure every bit is fine. It was more about that than anything else.”