BY HEARTS NEWS IN LEIGH
Robbie Neilson watched his Hearts team slide to defeat in their opening pre-season friendly, but insisted the match was a worthwhile exercise.
The Jambos went down 2-0 to Bulgarian champions Ludogorets Razgrad at the Leigh Sports Village Pavilion, with both goals coming after the interval - one a deflected effort and the other from the penalty spot.
Despite the scoreline, there was plenty to encourage the head coach in Hearts' first outing since the squad returned to training after their summer break, particularly coming as it did after a long day of travelling and against a team bound for the Champions' League qualifiers shortly.
"I was pleased. I thought in the first half we played really well," he said.
"We had a team for the first half and a team for the second half, and for the first 15/20 minutes of the second, I thought we played really well also.
"We lost a goal and it became difficult after that but I was pleased. It was a good workout against a really good team.
"You could see they had a lot of experience. I spoke with one of their coaches and he told me that they have eight Bulgarian internationalists and a couple of Slovakian internationalists as well. So it was a good workout for us.
"We're not even a week into pre-season yet. It's good to get a game against somebody and hopefully we can take the next step down the road."
New signings Neil Alexander and Morgaro Gomis showed up well in the opening period, while James Keatings demonstrated some nice touches as the Gorgie side wore the club's eye-catching new away kit for thr first time in Leigh.
The one black spot for Robbie was the late dismissal of Scott Robinson for two silly yellow cards in the space of just a few minutes.