First Team

Gaffer's delight

12th March 2016

Robbie Neilson happy with his team's performance in 1-0 win over Dundee.

Robbie Neilson hailed his side as they delivered yet another victory in this fine season, this time a 1-0 triumph at Dens Park.

A highly impressive display came with the three points it merited thanks to Jamie Walker’s second half strike as the Jambos extended their lead in third place to seventeen points.

Despite missed chances in the first half, the Jambos were not made to pay for that, as a combination of steely defending, superb goalkeeping from Neil Alexander and positional discipline ensured the win after Walker’s goal.

“I thought in the first half especially, we were excellent,” said Robbie. “We created a load of chances, and I can’t believe we didn’t take one of them. We gave up a few to Dundee as well in the second half.

“They’ve got a really imposing strike force, so that’s to be expected, but I thought it was an entertaining game and I’m very pleased we managed to keep another clean sheet.

“The back four were excellent, and because they’re so young, there’s still plenty of improvement to come from them too. Dundee won’t be shut out of many games this season, so more credit to us.”

Recent signing Perry Kitchen made his debut from the bench, to a warm reception from the 1500 Hearts supporters in attendance - including a rousing chant of USA, USA, USA - and Robbie revealed his delight at the American anchor’s performance after four months without a match.

“Perry did well, and he showed what I knew he was capable of,” he explained. “I wanted to get him some game time today, but I hoped it would be a bit more comfortable at the time.

“That said, he came on and fitted in perfectly, and organised the team when we were under pressure. We’re looking forward to seeing what he can do for us in future matches.”

With Celtic and Aberdeen both winning today, the gap up to second place remains at nine points, but with crucial clashes against the title contenders yet to come, Robbie admitted his sights were still set on something greater than third.

“The goal is to catch Aberdeen, which it has been for some time. We have a game in hand, and we have to play them twice. If we win those three games, we’d be above them in theory. 

“We’re looking up at Celtic and Aberdeen’s little battle with each other and we’re hoping they’ll scratch and claw and take points off each other and we can take advantage while playing without much pressure now.”

Finally, the head coach took the time to praise Jamie Walker, whose five goals in seven matches since returning from injury have given the side a boost during a sticky patch which has turned into a dominant set of results from this ever-evolving Hearts outfit.

“Jamie’s been like a new player for us since he came back from his injury,” he enthused. “He’s still a wee bit off full fitness too. He had a bad miss in the first half but showed his class with his goal.

“When he’s back to full fitness, you’ll see just how important he is, he’s a key player for this football club.”