Robbie Neilson revealed today that Hearts’ winning goal at Ibrox was the result of relentless training on a specific move to open up the Rangers defence.
Crediting his assistant, Stevie Crawford, for the work, the head coach explained how Sam Nicholson’s through pass and Osman Sow’s precise finish were worked on tirelessly at Riccarton during the build-up to yesterday’s 2-1 win. Sow’s winner came seconds after Nicky Law’s stoppage-time equaliser looked to have secured a late draw for Rangers. Danny Wilson’s header had opened the scoring but, just as it seemed Hearts would leave Glasgow with a point, Nicholson and Sow conjured up an exquisite winner straight from kick-off.
Neilson said the man behind that move was Crawford. He dedicated hours of time to creating space on the training pitch, involving a winger venturing inside from the flank before sliding a through pass to a striker. Nicholson and Sow put the move into practice perfectly.
“As soon as Sam comes inside into those little pockets, I’m always optimistic he’s going to slip someone through,” Neilson told the Evening News. “We’ve got that pace and we work on it all the time, getting into those little areas and slipping it through.
“Stevie Crawford worked on that exact movement last week – coming in and putting the ball through – and we just batter it all day.
“We’ve had sessions on that specifically and Stevie’s been great. He’s really good at working on the strikers’ movement and that move is down to him.”
Neilson praised his squad’s composure and character in front of a 40,000-plus crowd as they opened their SPFL Championship campaign with an inspired victory.
“We knew going there it was going to be difficult for the first hour,” he continued. “Rangers were unveiling the League One flag and renaming the Sandy Jardine Stand, which was magnificent for his family. We knew the atmosphere was going to be wild.
“We got a goal and we looked pretty comfortable. But it’s so easy to go to Ibrox and get a goal and think it’s great, then Rangers equalise and the game folds. I’ve been there before and seen that happen to teams, who go 1-0 up and end up losing 4-1. Our fightback was fantastic.”