Neilson hails contribution of Hearts keeper Alexander

Neil Alexander has been in top form for Hearts. Pic: Lisa Ferguson
Neil Alexander has been in top form for Hearts. Pic: Lisa Ferguson
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Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson today praised the contribution of goalkeeper Neil Alexander in the Jambos’ charge towards the title after the veteran shot-stopper helped the Jambos move 20 points clear at the top of the Scottish Championship with a stunning save in the 1-0 win over Livingston.

The 36-year-old former Scotland international made an exceptional fingertip intervention to deny Livingston striker Jordan White on Saturday with the score tied at 0-0. Hearts went on to win their 20th league game of the season thanks to a 40th-minute goal by Jamie Walker as they stretched their lead over second-placed Hibs and third-placed Rangers, but Neilson was quick to highlight the contribution of Alexander, hailing him as one of his best signings this season.

“Neil’s a good keeper – he’s been a fantastic signing for us,” Neilson told the Evening News.

“Today he’s produced a great save from Jordan White when it’s still been 0-0 and also earlier in the season he’s made a number of good ones. He’s been key to picking up points.

“He’s not only a good goalkeeper and a shot-stopper, but he brings in a lot of experience to the team. He’s very calm and he’s very good with his feet. He also commands his area. We’ve brought in a lot of good players here, but Neil’s up there with one of the best we’ve signed.

“He’s got vast experience and is one of the oldest players in the dressing-room – at 36 he’s older than me!” joked Neilson. “He’s played at a high level, he’s been there and done it and won titles and cups, so it does give the players a boost to have him behind them. There’s not a lot of people in Scotland available who have that background so we’re lucky to have him here.”

Hearts were not at their best as they ousted their visitors from West Lothian 1-0. It was the fifth time this season that the Tynecastle side had faced Livingston and the second time in a week they had clashed, and Neilson pointed out the difficulty of playing the same opponents so frequently.

“It was a difficult game, even more so by the fact that we’ve played them five times and we’re not even out of February yet,” said Neilson. “It’s difficult to change things and try and get something different into the game, especially playing them last week, but we altered things a bit and managed to get the win.

“At this stage of the season, it’s about picking up the points. There were periods that we did okay on Saturday, but at times our final pass and our final decisions weren’t good enough. Although it’s three points, it gives us a lot to work on during the week.

“Livingston played well and at the end of the day we were probably a bit lucky to get all three points, but at the end of the season and once everything’s done and dusted, if we win the title then nobody will care about how we picked up three points against Livi in February.”

• HEARTS Under-20s are in action tonight away to St Johnstone. The match kicks off at 6pm and will be played at Airdrie’s Excelsior Stadium.