Ben Woodburn transfer is imminent – Robbie Neilson

Robbie Neilson gave a key update in the Ben Woodburn transfer, as he reflected on Hearts’ 1-1 draw with Aberdeen. Jamie McIntosh reports. 

(Photo Credit – SNS Group)

Liam Boyce’s second half penalty was cancelled out by Funso Ojo as Aberdeen left Tynecastle with a point. 

The Jambos did control the first half, without really creating any chances, largely due to poor crossing from the wide areas, however Aberdeen came on strong in the second half and deserved their point. 

” I thought first half we played really well,” said Neilson. 

“I thought we were exceptional at times and pressed really high, dominated the game. Second half I thought Aberdeen were the better team. So, it was a game of two halves.

“The fans behind us gave us that push at the start, but we had to keep that going right through the whole game. Aberdeen are a good team. They’ve been top three or four for the last 10 years.

“We’ve a number of players who are trying to get to that level. To get that level you can’t switch off for a minute, you need to do it for 90 minutes. And when you play big venues like this, there’s that intensity and pressure that can fatigue you a bit.

“So, the more you get used to this, the better it will become.”

With Aberdeen returning from a European game in Azerbaijan, it did feel like Hearts would be the fresher of the two sides. That wasn’t the case, but Neilson believes he can take confidence from his side’s first half display against a good side. 

“The first half definitely does [give me confidence]. Second half we just needed that bit more confidence to deal with the opposition press, they came that bit higher at us. When we did play it through we broke them. It was just having that confidence to do it more often.”

There weren’t many chances in the game, however Gary Mackay-Steven missed a golden opportunity early in the second half which may have made the game different. 

 “Well, if it goes in you might not then get the penalty,” said Neilson.”So, the pleasing thing for me was I thought first half I felt we really played well against a good team.Second half we didn’t play so well, but we created chances, probably the best chances of the game.

“There is a wee tinge of disappointment, you go a goal up and you lose a goal, and you don’t get three points.

“But look at the bigger picture…three games, Celtic at home, St Mirren away – which is historically a hard place for us to go – and then Aberdeen at home… for us to be sitting joint top unbeaten after three games is great. But we know next week we’re in for a challenge.”

Liam Boyce was on target and Neilson simply explained that if Hearts want to finish high up the table, then the striker’s goals will be key. 

“If you want to be top end of the league you need a goalscorer who’s going to get you 20 goals a season. He’s got six already. We just to keep him fit and we need competition in there too. We’ll have (Armand) Gnanduillet back this week, so we can rotate a bit. We ask a lot of Liam.”

 Tempers flared after the whistle, with Neilson and Aberdeen captain Scott Brown exchanging words, but the Hearts boss played down the incident. 

 “Both teams, both players, there was a wee bit edge on the game, as there always is here. There were a few words said. But from our perspective it’s done and dusted.

 “I thought Bobby [Madden] done well today. I thought Nick [Walsh] handled the technical area really well as well. Tynecastle is one of the places where you are about three yards apart. So, I thought both of them handled it really well today because it was a good game, but it was quite intense.”

(Photo Credit – Steve Welsh/Getty Images)

Beni Baningime impressed again in the Hearts midfield and Neilson was full of praise for the summer signing. 

“Good player, really, really good player. We knew what we were getting, but I didn’t think he would be at the level he is at already. We thought we would need to develop him more, develop certain aspects of his game, but today I thought he was the best midfielder on the pitch. He handles the ball, picks up good areas on the pitch, gets people forward. For us, it’s just about maybe getting some goals into his game as well, but I am delighted with him.”

 Hearts did look a bit light on the bench today, but Neilson confirmed the Ben Woodburn deal has been sanctioned by Liverpool and his arrival is imminent. 

“We’re expecting him up either tonight [Sunday] or tomorrow morning. It’s been authorised by Liverpool. It is just a case of getting him up and getting him ready.  I am delighted. I would love it to be a permanent, but he is not one we can get, so it will be a loan. 

“Today when you look at us we are quite light squad-wise. We have got some of the young ones, like Denholm, Smith, guys like that, who need to go out on loan to develop. We are keeping them here because we don’t have the numbers for the bench in case we need to make changes. It is hindering their development. 

“Once we get three or four in it will give them the opportunity to go and will give us more options for the bench because I felt today the only options we had were Walker, McEneff and Henderson to an extent. He will go out on loan as well.” 

Like against St Mirren, Stephen Kingsley missed out through illness. Alex Cochrane filled in at centre back with Andy Halliday moving to left wing back in his absence. 

“He [Kingsley] wasn’t feeling well last night. We had the same with Leo Watson, so, the two of them had to pull out of the squad and we brought in one of the younger ones. A couple of them got Covid on the bus going up to Aberdeen, so that was us with all the players we had available.”

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