First Team

Neilson: Defence must improve

11th August 2016

Robbie Neilson demands his defence tightens up after last night's defeat to St Johnstone.

Robbie Neilson bemoaned his side’s slack defending as St Johnstone mounted a comeback to knock Hearts out of the Betfred Cup in last night’s encounter at McDiarmid Park.

Falling behind to a Danny Swanson screamer, Callum Paterson and Jamie Walker had the Jambos ahead at the break, before Alim Ozturk felled Swanson in the box allowing the player to score his second, while Brad McKay had a free header to net the winner for the Saints.

Neilson wasn’t impressed by the failure to deal with long balls from the Perth side on numerous occasions, pointing out that he felt this was the team’s downfall tonight.

“We’ve been done by not being able to deal with long balls,” said Neilson. “No matter how much possession of the ball you have, if you can’t deal with long balls it’s unacceptable.

“We’re devastated to be knocked out,” he continued. “We wanted to do well in the cups this season. We did well in possession, we were OK out of possession, but it boils down to a few instances of failing to deal with simple things.

“At this level, if the defenders can’t handle defending long balls, we’re in big trouble if they can’t deal with it. We had good link play and got into good areas, but the defending has cost us. If the centre-halves can’t deal with it, it’s up to them to get rid of the ball, and they haven’t.”