Robbie Neilson praised his side’s character as they overcame a stuffy Queen of the South side to record a fine 4-1 victory in today’s Scottish Championship encounter at Tynecastle.
Goals from James Keatings, Danny Wilson, Prince Buaben and Adam Eckersley proved enough to earn the three points, with Buaben also missing a first half penalty. However, Queens bossed the opening of the second half and deservedly levelled from the spot through Iain Russell.
With Hearts on the backfoot, the visitors almost took the lead from a corner, with only a superb double block by Neil Alexander and substitute Scott Robinson on the goal-line stopping what seemed a certain goal.
After the match, the head coach praised the Dumfries side for giving his team a real fright during today’s proceedings, but also gave his own side credit for responding in the right manner.
“We knew it would be a very tough game today”, Robbie explained. “We had a really difficult game down at Palmerston earlier in the season, so we knew what to expect. It was a good twenty minutes before we got going today. After we missed the penalty, the game sort of blew their way as they got a lift.
“I would say Queens are the best away side we’ve had here at Tynecastle this season, so enormous credit to them, but I felt we stayed strong and once we got the second goal, the game opened up and we were able to pick them off, so we’ll focus on next week now.”
The first fifteen minutes of the second half saw Hearts under one of the heaviest spells of pressure they’ve suffered this season, something which seemed to alarm sections of the home supporters. Robbie, however, was confident in his players’ ability to put the setback behind them and push on for the victory.
Additionally, Chelsea’s defeat at Newcastle today leaves Hearts as the only top league side in Britain to remain undefeated this season. Despite this, Neilson was refusing to allow any potential hype or speculation over the unbeaten run to take away the Jambos’ focus on simply winning the league title.
“I always believed in our ability to win the game, but also our desire not to drop points. Neil Alexander made a superb point blank save and Scott Robinson did his job right by staying on the line and clearing the ball. That just shows how desperate they are not to let up.
“We’ve got our back four plus two defensive minded midfielders who are determined not to let our opposition score, but also we’ve got players who are desperate to score goals”, he continued. “You saw that with two defenders getting on the scoresheet, especially Adam, whose goal was terrific.”
“The unbeaten run isn’t really something we’re focusing on as some kind of trophy, we’re just focusing on one game at a time. We’ll maybe lose a game eventually, but it’s not unbeaten runs that we focus on, it’s accumulating points.”
As injuries and suspensions take their toll, Robbie gave 18-year old Robbie Buchanan his first start, and with the game won late on, introduced 17-year old Nathan Flanagan for his first team debut.
“We’re down to the bare bones right now. Everyone at the club who was fit - bar one player - was involved in the squad today, and we had Robbie Buchanan making his first start with Nathan Flanagan getting his debut, but those aren’t negatives.
“It’s great for the club to bring through young players, that’s part of the entire ethos at the club. Having said that, we’re still desperate to win the title and our focus on that won’t waiver.”
Lastly, Robbie confirmed that next week would see the return of Jason Holt, Dale Carrick and Sam Nicholson to the squad in time for the trip to Central Park to face Cowdenbeath.