Robbie Neilson admitted that Hearts may have become victims of their own high expectations, but still declared himself satisfied after today’s 2-1 win over Raith Rovers.
Goals from Sam Nicholson and Soufian El Hassnaoui gave the Jambos the win, and despite Calum Elliot reducing the arrears, Hearts moved onto 87 points for the season with the win.
After losing the Edinburgh derby to Hibs last weekend, Robbie was pleased that his team managed to put that to one side to get the three points today.
“Football is ultimately about winning games,” said Robbie. “We did what we had to do, after losing the derby match last weekend. I made a few changes, and the fresh players gave us a lift.
“The wheels can come off the tracks a bit when your season ends so early, it can be hard to get up for matches, so we’re trying to drill personal targets and pride into the players’ mentalities.
“Three months ago, we’d have been delighted with a 2-1 victory over Raith Rovers,” he continued. “Going for the title, every point is so vital, but today we’re a bit flat due to not hitting standards.
“The expectations are extremely high around the club, so the place is a bit down every after winning. In a way it’s a good thing, but we still need to enjoy victories because we won’t have as many next season.”
Sam Nicholson added another goal to his tally for the season, earning one of the sponsors’ man-of-the-match awards in doing so. When questioned about his importance to the side, Robbie admitted he saw Sam as being an important part of next season’s plans.
“Sam is going to be a key player for us next season,” said Neilson. “He’s got energy, pace, he’s creative and he’s starting to add goals to his game. He was important for us at the end of last season.
“He’s got another 30 games under his belt now and we’ve noted his progression. I’m lucky to have him, and Walker and King, along with Keatings and Gary Oliver there as well.”
Additionally, youth international Sean McKirdy made his first league appearance today, impressing those in attendance with his passing and composure during a 30 minute cameo in the second half.
A well-liked face among the dressing room, Neilson explained what it was about McKirdy that had endeared him to the senior players in the playing squad.
“I’m delighted for Sean,” revealed the head coach. “He’s loved by all the senior pros because he’s respectful, and listens to what they tell him.
“He still needs to grow and get a bit bigger and stronger, but I thought he steadied the ship when he came on. It’s pleasing to see a young player come on and play with real confidence.”
Lastly, late in the game, the home support were treated to the sight of the pint-sized McKirdy going head to head with the imposing frame of ex-Jambo Christian Nade.
The hulking centre forward was hassled and harassed by McKirdy, although he did eventually come away with the ball despite the well-received efforts of the youngster.
“He was certainly trying to get in about him! He’s a terrier with a big future at the club, but he’ll need to double in size to get near Christian!”