ROBBIE NEILSON believes Hearts are building serious momentum for the second half of the season after just one defeat in 11 games.
Saturday’s 6-0 rout of Motherwell extended a fine recent run of form which Neilson attributed to new signings adapting to Scottish football.
The Edinburgh club have lost only twice since September, a run of 17 matches in which new recruits have found their feet. The likes of Igor Rossi, Arnaud Djoum, Blazej Augustyn and Juanma are now settled in Scotland and better acclimatised to the style of football.
Four of the six goalscorers against Motherwell arrived at Tynecastle last summer and have shown real prowess in recent weeks. Juanma and Djoum scored the final two goals after Rossi, Osman Sow, Gavin Reilly and Callum Paterson had put Hearts 4-0 ahead and out of sight.
“I said all along that getting that first understanding of what Scottish football is like is difficult for people,” said Neilson. “You come here and, no matter what country you come from, this is different. Blazej, Igor, [Juwon] Oshaniwa, Juanma – they come in and they expect it to be the same as where they came from. It isn’t. It’s a different type of football, played at a higher tempo and more physical. It’s end-to-end and it’s more open. I think these players are starting to get the gist of it now. We need to be a bit more unpredictable than we are, though.
“Last season we played short, passing the ball into feet all the time. This season we’ll switch play, we’ll go through the middle or we’ll go over the top. We’re starting to do it better so that opponents don’t know what we’re going to do.
“I thought we played well on Saturday and we carried last week’s performance on. We were 3-0 up early on and then there was a wee bit of a lull until we got a couple of subs on. They gave us that lift to go and kill the game off. It was a pleasing performance.
“I’m pleased for the guys who started but also for the guys who came on. I thought Dario Zanatta did well, Juanma got a goal, and Jordan McGhee came on for the last ten minutes. It can be difficult coming on in those circumstances. You’re sitting cold and the team is doing well but I thought he was very professional and did his job.”
A second successive clean sheet following last week’s Scottish Cup win against Aberdeen also brought satisfaction. “It has been a while and it’s nice to get two clean sheets,” added Neilson. “We gave up a couple of chances, probably of our own doing, but it was good for the back four and good for Neil Alexander in goal.”
The only negative from the weekend was a sixth league caution of the season for Augustyn. That triggers an automatic one-match ban which means he will miss Hearts’ trip to Inverness at the end of the month.