Robbie Neilson conceded the three points today had been more important than the overall performance as Hearts got back to winning ways against Kilmarnock.
Jamie Walker’s third goal in four games was enough, the winger’s sixth-minute penalty rebounding off the post via a superb Jamie MacDonald save before Walker sclaffed the ball home.
Abiola Dauda hit the post from a second spot-kick after being foiled yet again by MacDonald, while Sam Nicholson also hit the woodwork after a brilliant header at the back post.
Despite some late nerves, Hearts were never really in trouble and extended their lead in third-place to eleven points, while closing the gap on second-placed Aberdeen to nine points with a game in hand.
“We probably should have been more comfortable today,” admitted Neilson. “We had good possession, and we blew the chance with the penalty and a few one v ones. If we’d scored a second we’d have killed the game.
“It was important to get the result. We want to play football but sometimes it’s not possible. We had good periods today, but we weren’t as good second half.
“On the plus side, I thought we defended our lead really well, and we didn’t give many chances up outside of the first five minutes.”
Praising the Killie stopper, Neilson revealed the coaching staff had instructed the players to follow in for any saves the former Hearts goalie would make, particularly from spot-kicks.
“Jamie is great at shot stopping. We told the players if we had any penalties today to get in and pick up any second balls. He’s a great shot stopper, anything around him and he’ll save it.”
Finally, Robbie revealed his delight at returning to winning ways after a tough week, while disclosing the team are still targeting Aberdeen in second place.
“We got a real boost today with the teams around us dropping points,” he said. “We’re two points closer to Aberdeen, and that’s still the target.
“If we aim up the way and aim for Aberdeen, we’ll stay away from 4th place and the teams chasing us, but Aberdeen are in our sights.”