Neilson highlights keys to Hearts’ success and heaps praise on attackers

Robbie Neilson gave his reaction to Hearts’ 5-2 victory over Dundee United. Jamie McIntosh reports. 

(Photo Credit – Bauer Radio)

Hearts moved up to second in the cinch Premiership after defeating Dundee United 5-2 in a game of the season contender at Tynecastle. 

After the disappointing display at Pittodrie last weekend and with an international break to follow, this game felt like a big one for the Jambos. 

The victory snapped Hearts’ poor streak four games without a win in fine style and Neilson was delighted with the way his side bounced back from last weekend’s first league defeat of the season but questioned the manner of the goals his team conceded. 

“I was pleased,” the Hearts boss admitted. “I thought in parts of the game we played really, really well after the disappointment of last week, especially the second half, to come back and have that belief. 

“We played well but I was disappointed to lose two goals. They weren’t great goals. The first was a deflection and the second we opened up a bit too much because we were chasing the next goal.”

The game was a topsy turvy affair, in which Hearts twice gave up a two-goal cushion and as a defender himself, Neilson couldn’t have been blamed for attempting to batten down the hatches and protect his side’s one goal advantage – instead, Hearts continued to attack, an approach which paid dividends. 

“We have good players here,” Neilson said. “During the game, especially when they got back to a goal behind at 2-1, and then 3-2, you do think should we change things and go more defensive, but we felt that with the quality we’ve got on the pitch, we can always create chances and we got the goals that took us clear.

“For us, the key this season is going to be consistency. Can we do it every week because if we can, there’s no doubt when we get to the end of the season we will be in a very good position. Last week at Aberdeen, they didn’t allow us to play the way we wanted to, and we struggled. It’s figuring out ways to stay in the game, ways to produce that performance when it’s not going for us.”

Without Liam Boyce leading the line, Hearts fans couldn’t be blamed for not expecting their side to score five goals against a United defence that have been stubborn so far this season. 

“People were wondering what we would be like and what we would do,” Neilson said. 

“Do we go with Armand [Gnanduillet] for his physicality, or do we go with [Josh] Ginnelly with his pace? We felt that playing against [Charlie] Mulgrew and [Ryan] Edwards, who are strong physically and organised, that pace would help and thankfully it did.”

Ben Woodburn grabbed his first two goals in maroon, the second in particular was a thing of beauty and his boss believes the weight has now been lifted from the Welshman’s shoulders and Hearts fans will now see an even better player.  

“I am delighted for Ben. He is a top player,” said Neilson.

“We see that every day in training and it will be a release to get that goal. He has been putting a lot of pressure on himself to score goals and to come up here and do well and I just think the goals were the final thing he needed to release him. I thought that after the first goal he flourished so we will see even more from him.

“There is no doubt that he is a top player and when it falls in the box like that, he is one of the few in the team that you would expect to score it.”

The Hearts boss joked that Liam Boyce might even struggle to get back in the Hearts side.

“Yeah, I had hoped he would be back for this one but I’m not sure if he will get back in now! We will have to wait and see.”

Aaron McEneff rounded off the scoring in a rare outing for the midfielder and Neilson was full of praise for the effort he’s put in, despite not getting the amount of game-time he’d have liked.

“He came last January when we were going for the title and this season, the level of player in that area shot up and Aaron is fighting to get in there. He trains well every day and I said to him, ‘when it comes, you have to be ready’ and he’s managed to get on and score the goal because he does that hard work. Absolutely delighted for him.”

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