Robbie Neilson today revealed how Hearts are working on creating space for Alim Ozturk to hit more blockbuster goals like Saturday’s winner against Raith Rovers.
For the second time in successive games, Ozturk lashed a sensational strike from distance and his manager wants to harness that shooting ability.
Ozturk struck Hearts’ stoppage-time equaliser from around 40 yards against Hibs two weeks ago. Five minutes in to Saturday’s match at Tynecastle, he scored from 30 yards with another powerful drive. The Turk’s penchant for stepping forward from defence to shoot has led to Neilson trying to find ways to create space for him to do so more often.
“We’re actually trying to make spaces for him to step forward because he’s that good at coming forward with the ball,” said Hearts’ head coach. “It’s a big asset to have Alim who can step in and pick a pass or he can smash it from 30 or 40 yards.
“When he came forward on Saturday, I did expect him to shoot this time. I saw him coming forward and it’s days like that, when it’s wet and soggy, that the ball will move about. I was hoping he was going to step up and hit the shot.
“You might not always get a goal out of it, but if you shoot a couple of times then the other team need to come out and press you. When they come and press you, they leave gaps in behind. They didn’t press Alim and we got the goal out of it.”
Neilson admitted Hearts’ performance on Saturday was slightly below-par but he was encouraged by their ability to grind out a 1-0 win against a resilient and well-organised Raith Rovers side. “There are times in football when you play really well and you can’t get a result. Those are the times when you know you’re in trouble,” continued Neilson.
“If we’re not playing great and still getting results and bringing in three points, then it’s a good sign. It breeds confidence. We know we aren’t going to go through the whole season playing well in every game. If we can play poorly and still pick up a win, it’s because we’ve got guys with a bit of quality.
“I was disappointed because I hoped we would score some more goals after going 1-0 up early on. It wasn’t to be. The conditions weren’t great, the pitch was cutting up and it was very wet and soggy. Raith made it hard for us but at the end of the day it’s three points.”
Left-back Adam Eckersley hobbled off late in the match with a hip injury, leaving Hearts with ten men for the final few minutes as all their substitutes were used. Neilson stressed the injury is not serious. “It’s just a dead hip, really. He got a knee on his hip so I don’t see any problems. He’ll be two or three days and he’ll be fine.”
• Hearts Under-20s are in action tomorrow afternoon away at Ross County. The match at Grant Street Park in Inverness kicks off at 2pm.