Robbie Neilson praised his side’s fighting spirit as his league-topping Hearts overturned a 1-0 deficit to record a superb - and vital - win over Queen of the South.
Falling behind to a Danny Carmichael strike at Palmerston Park, the Jambos responded brilliantly thanks to goals from Billy King and a late Genero Zeefuik deflected effort to maintain their 20-point lead with just 11 games left.
After the match, the head coach commended both sides for their approach to the match, but concluded that Hearts were the deserving victors, insisting that he always had faith in the boys to overcome falling behind.
“Queens started the match really well, but we responded in the right manner and got back into the game,” said Robbie. “We showed great spirit after going a goal down, and we dominated the second half. We deserved our win.
“I was never worried about being a goal down, as we had plenty time to turn it around. The team didn’t panic, kept getting the ball into good areas and we went direct when we had to.”
By reaffirming their 20-point lead over Hibs, the Jambos also left themselves one game closer to league championship glory, something which Robbie now admitted was within touching distance, as he hailed a “huge step” to the title.
“At this stage of the season, it’s a case of chalking off the games left," he said. "This was a huge game. We have two matches at home now, but for me, this was the one that I wanted to win most.
“I felt that if we won, it would be a huge step to the title for us. People would be looking at us slipping up, and it could have happened.
“If Queen of the South make the play-offs, with the way they play at home especially, there’s a great chance you’ll see them in the top league next season.”
Lastly, since losing their first and only game of the season so far - to Falkirk - a month ago, the Jambos have won all four matches since, three away from home, and have actually managed to extend their lead at the top of the table despite that defeat.
In addition to the victory today ensuring Hearts will have gone more than 12 months undefeated in the league away from home, Robbie revealed his pleasure at the ‘bouncebackability’ shown by the players in the games following that first defeat.
“In hindsight, losing the Falkirk game was a positive thing, I think," he added. "We didn’t want to lose any game, but the run we’ve put in since the defeat has shown the pressure has lifted a bit.
“There’s less cageyness, teams don’t have that extra motivation to beat us, we just focus game to game now. I knew we’d never go all season undefeated, I’m glad it’s proven inconsequential at this point, too, and I’m delighted with the response since then.”