First Team

We have a group of winners

10th August 2014

Robbie Neilson thrilled with character shown by side as Hearts seal dramatic victory at Ibrox in SPFL Championship opener.

Robbie Neilson declared himself 'absolutely delighted' as his Hearts side started their SPFL Championship campaign with a bang after a dramatic last-gasp victory over promotion rivals Rangers at Ibrox.

After surviving a first-half onslaught, the Jambos came out after the break with intent and took the lead through Danny Wilson's header. It looked like heartbreak again as Nicky Law equalised in stoppage time, but the Gorgie boys had the last laugh as Sam Nicholson played Osman Sow through and the big striker rifled the ball home to seal a famous win in Govan.

"I'm absolutely delighted. We knew we'd come here and it would be difficult with the fanfare of the day, the unfurling of the flag, the stand renaming", explained Robbie. "Admittedly, we rode our luck initially, but we knew after an hour it would die down."

Despite leading for most of the second half, it looked like the same old story as Rangers levelled the game in injury time, but unlike Hearts sides of old, this team knew they still had 5 minutes left to win the game. As it turns out, they only needed one.

Robbie also took the time to hail his defence, who managed to keep out Kenny Miller and Kris Boyd, having used training time this week to study the form of the prolific striking pair.

"The easiest thing in the world would be for the team to fold at that point. I've been here before with teams and you lose a late goal, and it can finish 2-1, 3-1, 4-1, but we have a group of winners in there, with character, who knew the game was still there for the taking.

"I thought our defence was great, the two central defenders were outstanding, the full backs were really solid. Their front 2 is lethal, we studied them all week, the moves they like to make, the way they play, and I think we limited them to no real chances. To be honest, there wasn't a fault in the whole team. First half we didn't play through the midfield enough but we rectified that at half time"

Osman Sow will grab the headlines tomorrow, perhaps rightfully so, and the head coach explained that, while pleased with the striker's contribution, he feels Osman has even more to come once he finds 100% fitness, the Swede having started pre-season very late this summer.

"Osman has come in and done brilliantly. The players have really taken him into the group and he's rewarded them with moments like that. He's still not quite there, fitness-wise, I'm still not entirely sure how fit he actually is, but he's got the whole package and he'll scare a lot of defenders. He lets our technical players do their work in the midfield with the space he creates."

Finally, Robbie revealed that the players had passed the first test he had set them - to handle the atmosphere and the occasion of today's opening match, but left a reminder that there were still 35 more games to go before they could let up.

"I'm just delighted that the players handled the atmosphere. We knew we could win, but we had to handle the occasion, most of all. There was a lot of hype about this game, we had six weeks of it. Very few of the boys have played here before, and it's a different atmosphere than they're used to. It'll be a long hard season for us, though, but we have to take this win and run with it. We have to keep going."