Robbie Neilson was thrilled with his side’s character as Hearts overcame a robust Hamilton Accies side to earn a well deserved 3-1 victory in today’s Ladbrokes Premiership encounter at Tynecastle.
Ali Crawford gave Accies the lead 5 minutes into the second half, but the Jambos took back the impetus through super-sub Sam Nicholson, who set up the equaliser, won a penalty and netted the vital third goal in time added one.
“We’re delighted with that,” said Neilson. “Hamilton are a really hard side to break down, and we’ve had it tough against them recently. We knew we might need to be patient, they’re a good unit.
“We had a lot of pressure in the first half, but we were frustrated with some missed chances in the first half too. We lost a good goal soon after half time, but we showed great character to respond and win the match.”
Jamie Walker came back into the side today at the expense of Nicholson, with the younger winger feeling the effects of a gruelling trip to Ukraine with the Scotland U21s. However, both players delivered today when it mattered, to the delight of the head coach.
“Jamie’s one of our best players, but the team’s been doing so well that he’s found it hard to get back in,” said Robbie. “With Sam feeling a bit tired today, we gave Jamie a chance and he certainly repaid us.
“Sam is a player with real quality, but he was a bit tired from his international break and we wanted to rest him a bit, and let him loose for the last half hour of the match, when they would be tiring.
“We knew he could give us something different and make a real impact, so we’re delighted with the contribution from both the wingers today.”
Finally, as today’s match takes Hearts above Rangers into 2nd place, the head coach admitted the players were up for the challenge of staying at the top of the table as they aim to hunt down a rampant Celtic side.
“The players came in at full time and immediately wanted to see the table to see where we were,” he revealed. “They’re hungry, and they know we can go top, albeit briefly, with a win next weekend now. They want to keep going.
“We have to believe we can compete at the top. We know it will be hard to challenge, but games like today give us a big lift. We could be sitting here with nothing to show but we fought to the end and we’re sitting second on merit right now.”