Hearts moved one step closer to the SPFL Championship trophy with a hard-earned victory over Raith Rovers at a misty Starks Park in Kirkcaldy.
After taking the lead through Kevin McHattie, the Jambos were pegged back by Craig Barr’s header, before two more late goals from the superb Jamie Walker and Billy King earned all three points for Hearts, who were aided by a red card to Rovers’ Christian Nade.
Robbie Neilson was quick to praise his side for eventually knocking down the wall that the home side had put up in the hope of earning a draw following the red card.
“Their goalie made some fantastic saves,” said Robbie of David McGurn - the Rovers keeper earning man of the match for his side. “We had some shots cleared off the line, and then we lost a sloppy goal before half time, which changed the game.
“After Nade’s red card, it was just a matter of time before we scored again. Jamie Walker gave us that extra spark, which is why I put him on as the game opened up.
“I knew he could find that space and get a chance to score, so I’m pleased he made the difference tonight.”
The head coach was asked if he was worried that the crucial goal may not come, but he dismissed any concerns by mentioning the depth of the squad, and pointing out that top scorer Osman Sow remained an unused substitute.
“I was never concerned because I know we have quality on the bench,” continued Robbie. “Osman Sow didn’t even get on tonight, I put on Anderson and El Hassnaoui because they’re both capable of scoring as well.
“I’m fortunate in that respect, because I have so many gifted attacking players who are all capable of scoring a goal.”
Hearts head into Saturday’s clash at the Falkirk Stadium knowing that, with a victory, the league championship could be assured should Hibs fail to defeat Rangers on Sunday.
While Neilson was confident of achieving victory, he refused to allow himself to think beyond Hearts beating the Bairns who, of course, were the only team to defeat the Jambos in the league this season.
“We’ll try to win at Falkirk now, that’s all that we can think ahead to. They’re the only team to beat us, so it’s a really tough game. If we can win that, however, I’d rather the result at Easter Road didn’t affect us.
“I won’t be watching that game anyway. I’m on a coaching course this weekend, getting my Pro Licence. Stevie Crawford will be there with one of our scouts.
“I’d like us to win the title ourselves in front of our own fans with a victory. We haven’t needed favours off anybody this season, and we don’t want anyone doing us a favour now either. However, we’re under no illusions as to how difficult the Falkirk game will be.
“The fans have backed us all season, so we’d like to win the title for ourselves in front of our supporters and give them an extra special something to cheer.”
Finally, Robbie wished to pay his own personal tribute after the Jambos suffered the loss of two individuals who both contributed so very much, in different ways, to Heart of Midlothian.
“It's been a big couple of days for the club with the sad passing of Dave Mackay and Elaine Spence, our Ticket Centre Assistant Manager. We spoke before the game about how much this match meant to Elaine's family and friends, and we wanted to go out there and win for her.
“I’m glad we were able to do that and Elaine will forever live on in the hearts of everyone at Heart of Midlothian Football Club.”