Robbie Neilson hails Hearts fighting spirit

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson celebrates with defender Igor Rossi after they defeated Ross County. Pic: SNS
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson celebrates with defender Igor Rossi after they defeated Ross County. Pic: SNS
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ROBBIE NEILSON today acclaimed Hearts’ resolve after they battled and scrapped to maintain their 100 per cent league record in Dingwall.

The visitors defended tenaciously during Saturday’s second half to hold on for a 2-1 win at Ross County – their fourth successive victory since the league campaign began.

The result keeps them top of the Ladbrokes Premiership and continued a perfect start on their return to top-flight football. Osman Sow and Alim Ozturk put Hearts 2-0 ahead inside 15 minutes before Liam Boyce’s penalty reduced the deficit. Neilson’s side survived long spells of second-half pressure to leave with maximum points and the head coach was delighted with the courage shown.

“We did it last season as well,” he told the Evening News. “Everybody looks at last season and thinks we performed magnificently every week, but there were games where we had to dig in. There were games we won by the odd goal and that’s part of football.

“In the first 30 minutes we were great. We opened Ross County up, created lots of chances and could’ve scored three or four. Then we lose the penalty and it changes the flow of the game. It gives them a lift and they get some impetus in the game.

“That’s football. You have to learn a different way sometimes. You can’t always play great football. You have to manage the game and make sure you get the result.”

Neilson is confident midfielder Prince Buaben will be available to face Partick Thistle this weekend. The Ghanaian suffered a hamstring injury and was replaced by Jordan McGhee after 54 minutes of Saturday’s match. The 27-year-old has started every league match so far despite a disrupted pre-season. “I didn’t expect Prince to play the full match,” said Neilson. “He played last Saturday and then Wednesday.

“I thought we’d get about an hour out of him but he tightened his hamstring up. We’ll just need to manage that and get him ready for Partick Thistle. He’ll be fine for that, I’m sure.”

Osman Sow and Sam Nicholson were also substituted. “Osman tightened up a bit and Nicholson got a wee knock. I don’t expect any issues with them.”