First Team

Alexander's 'Neil-good factor'

17th August 2015

Keeper hails dressing room atmosphere as table-topping Jambos win at Ross County.

Neil Alexander praised his Hearts defence as they held firm against a tough Ross County side in Saturday’s Ladbrokes Premiership win.

Goals from Osman Sow and Alim Ozturk put the Jambos 2-0 up after 14 minutes, but County reduced arrears after referee Bobby Madden awarded the home side a penalty following a set-piece scramble.

The home side came into the game more, and while putting Hearts under a lot of pressure, the player-coach revealed his delight as the team maintained discipline and focus to hold on for an impressive win.

“It was a really hard win for us,” said Alexander. “The defence was outstanding, I thought, and they won us the game. We were totally in control until the penalty was awarded.

“From my position it looked a bit soft, but we dealt with losing it brilliantly and we did well to hang on against a very good Ross County side.”

Things could have been much different, however, as Alexander was called into action after four minutes, pulling off an outstanding save after Michael Gardyne broke into the penalty area.

Modestly playing down the save, the keeper did concede that it was vital for the team to remain on the front foot, and that giving away an early goal can ruin a week’s worth of training.

“It’s important to make saves early on,” he continued. “You don’t want to immediately give up the momentum to your opposition, and it proved crucial.

“The boys went up the park and scored two truly great goals. The penalty changed the flow of the game, but I thought we handled the situation very well indeed.”

Asked how far this Hearts side can go, after their fourth win in four league games left the Scottish Championship winners sitting in first place in the top tier, Alexander revealed that there was a real feel good factor at the club right now.

“We have a great dressing room, and we’ve maintained that winning mentality from last season,” said the Scotland cap. “We have a lot of leaders on the park making sure every player keep their focus.

“The players feel lucky to be at Hearts right now, and we all appreciate what a great place it is to be in our careers right now. This is a club on the up.”