First Team

Tough test awaits

7th July 2016

Robbie Neilson wary of threat posed by Birkirkara and Maltese heat.

Robbie Neilson is anticipating a difficult encounter when Hearts travel to face Birkirkara in the second qualifying round of the Europa League.

The Jambos set up a clash with the Maltese outfit after disposing of Estonians FC Infonet last night in Tallinn, a 4-2 win giving the men in maroon a 6-3 aggregate victory.

The head coach knows his side will be facing not only an improving team, but tricky playing conditions with a soaring heat currently sweeping through Malta.

Speaking to HeartsTV, Robbie said: “It’s going to be a tough one again. They’re a good team, they’ve had a lot of money invested into them.

“They played West Ham last year and had some good results against them so we know it’s going to be a hard game.

“We also have to deal with the heat out there. It could be 35 degrees so it’s another aspect that we need to take into consideration.”

Hearts got off to the best possible start in last night’s encounter at A. Le Coq Arena, going in 3-0 up at half time. Robbie has revealed that the team spent the last week talking about how to improve upon last week’s first leg victory at Tynecastle, and is glad they were able to put it into practice.

“It was the perfect start,” he said. “We knew what we had to do. The players have been working on it all week and speaking about it, and they went and did it.

“The delivery from Walker was great, hitting Paterson early and getting support there and it caused them real problems.

“They did exactly what I wanted them to do. We spoke about it during the week, what we thought we needed to do, what they thought they needed to do and we agreed that there were certain things that we didn’t do in the first game that would get us joy and we managed to do it last night.”

Robbie had words of praise for the 300-strong pocket of Hearts fans who made the journey over to Estonia to sit behind the goals, and hopes they can replicate it again in Malta.

“The travelling support is always great when you go abroad,” he said. “There was about 300 of them and I’m sure they had a great night the night before the game and they’ll have had a good night last night. Hopefully they can come over to Malta and support us again.”