Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell shrugged off the importance of joining Celtic at the top of the Premier League but praised his players for “pushing the boundaries” to a 1-0 victory over 10-man Tynecastle.
A well-placed first-half goal by Callum Slattery and decisive defensive play – especially after Paul McGinn’s red card in the 69th minute – ensured victory over a Hearts team that managed just one save.
Motherwell are second on goal difference behind Celtic, but Kettlewell is not table-bound after four matches.
“I don’t want to be dark and gloomy, but that doesn’t mean anything at the moment,” he said.
“I have been talking to the players about pushing the boundaries as much as possible and I think as a short term goal to come to Tynecastle and get a clean sheet and win is to push the boundaries for a club like Motherwell.
“Their resources and everything they have are astronomical compared to us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t come here and push the boundaries and win football matches – and justify ourselves the way we did.
“We’re not going to look at the standings or talk about it as a group.
“For the fans and people outside of our club, this is a big story and there is a lot to talk about. But we very simply feel that we have reached an incredible limit of form.
“It’s already 10 Premier League games without a defeat and we haven’t lost a single away game since I took over.”
Kettlewell added: “It was a brilliant performance. We were very good in the first half. We did a lot of things well, both with and without possession of the ball.
“Basically, when you come here, you want to turn the crowd, you want to try to get the opposition to change its form and composition. They did it all, so we felt that the first marker was for us.
“In the second half, you know you have to suffer sometimes. At times you won’t have the ball, but when we were reduced to 10 people, it should have brought out a different side of us.
“We laughed along with the players because we are working on attack and defense, and you saw how comfortable it was for them.
“They seemed to enjoy it and there was unity in everything they did. I think Liam Kelly only got one shot on target in the entire game, which is incredible. But it also shows the work that has been done before him.”
Hearts technical director Steven Naismith admitted that his team’s performance was “poor” as they suffered their fourth loss in a row.
Naismith added: “It was very similar to every game we played after a draw in Europe. A very slow start, sluggish, safe, which then turns into nerves, turns into a distribution of cheap chances.
“I don’t think we deserved to win, we didn’t create enough, especially when they were reduced to 10 people.
“It was more of a hope than a real desire to get things done and get back in the game, which would put them under real pressure, which we failed to do.”
Naismith refused to use Thursday’s difficulties against PAOK as an excuse.
“If you’re at a club that is required to play in Europe season after season, then you need to understand that you need to dig deeper when you don’t feel your best,” he said.
“You need to have a mentality that says, ‘No matter what, we’re going to win this game, even if it doesn’t go according to plan.’
“We need to have enough strength to create problems for other teams and I don’t think we have managed to do that in these games after the European games.”