Robbie Neilson today paid tribute to Scott Robinson for stepping up to the plate against Cowdenbeath after a demoralising start to the season for the Hearts midfielder.
The 22-year-old, who sat out the opening two league games of the season through suspension, was informed at the end of last month that he was free to leave Tynecastle after falling down the pecking order, but after deciding to stay put and fight for his place, Robinson was handed a surprise first league start of the season on Saturday, with Jason Holt dropping to the bench, Prince Buaben still suspended and recent recruit Miguel Pallardo not match fit.
Head coach Neilson was impressed with the recalled midfielder’s contribution as Hearts moved three points clear at the top of the table with a 5-1 thrashing of Cowdenbeath.
“I was delighted with Scott,” he told the Evening News. “I spoke to him before the window shut about the opportunities he would get this season and it was an honest conversation.
“I know he can come in and do a job for us and play at a high level but my worry was that he wouldn’t be happy playing five or ten games because I know he played lots of games last season and he’s a guy who wants to play every game.
“I gave him the opportunity to make the decision if he wanted to stay here and work hard and be part of the squad, playing the odd games here and a couple of games there because that’s what it might be like. He came in against Cowdenbeath and did great – I was delighted with him.”
Another player who returned on Saturday was Dale Carrick, who hadn’t featured since the victory over Rangers on the opening day. The striker, 20, had been sidelined with a thigh injury, but stepped off the bench to smash in a long-range double and boost his prospects of competing for a starting berth with summer signings Osman Sow, James Keatings and Soufian El Hassnaoui.
“I was really delighted for Dale,” said Neilson. “He’s a really good kid with a great attitude.”
Hearts were without injured pair Sam Nicholson and Kevin McHattie, but hopes to have them back training this week with a view to including them in the squad for Wednesday’s League Cup trip to Celtic. “There’s every chance they will have some kind of involvement on Wednesday,” he said.
Meanwhile, on-loan Hearts right-back Liam Smith scored a late equaliser for East Fife in their 2-2 draw with Queen’s Park on Saturday.