HEARTS head coach Robbie Neilson admitted last night’s 3-0 friendly loss at Dundee was an eye-opener because so many of his players lacked hunger and desire.
Neilson was critical of his players’ application after making seven changes to the team that impressed against Manchester City last Friday. Hearts defended poorly and were second best in midfield against Premiership opposition, and Neilson left Dens Park less than happy.
Gary Harkins’ penalty and two goals from the outstanding Luka Tankulic secured victory for Paul Hartley’s well-drilled Dundee side. Hearts left out players who are expected to be first choices this season, such as goalkeeper Neil Alexander and centre-backs Alim Ozturk and Danny Wilson.
Neilson conceded that everyone involved in a sub-standard performance must raise their game. Hearts’ competitive season starts this weekend against Annan Athletic in the Petrofac Training Cup.
“The players need to know that there are standards at this club and last night we just didn’t reach them,” Neilson told the Evening News. “We just didn’t have that desire and hunger, which is disappointing. That’s the first thing we look for from any team.
“It’s been a hard pre-season for them and you can see they’re a wee bit heavy-legged but I was really disappointed with the way we played. In periods, we had wee flashes of what we’re looking to do, but not enough of it. You need to earn the right to go and play football and I didn’t think we did that.
“The guys who haven’t been involved as much had to come in and show what they can do. It’s important that they come in and put on a performance. I felt the performance wasn’t great all-round. Even the boys who have been regulars so far this pre-season didn’t give us enough.
“It’s an eye-opener. That’s what I said to the boys. Sometimes the players think they are further ahead than they are. You’ve got to remember we’re a Championship team playing against a Premiership team last night. I’d like to think we have the standard and quality to be a Premiership team, but not on that basis.
“There is a long, long way for a lot of them to go in terms of learning, playing and working. Sometimes it’s good to get a wee eye-opener. It gives you that wee bit of fire again to go and work harder.”
Recent signing Scott Gallacher made his debut in goal for Hearts but had to pick the ball out of his net three times. “Scott came in and I thought he did okay. He’s still learning how we want him to play defensively,” said Neilson.
“There weren’t too many positives to take from last night, other than the fact it was another run out. I thought Dundee played well and seemed to have a wee bit of nous about them. They know how to play the game.”
Meanwhile, Hearts will be without midfielder Scott Robinson for the first three league games. He is suspended against Rangers and Hibs due to bookings carried over from last season. He will also miss the Raith Rovers match on August 23 as a result of his red card in the friendly against Ludogorets Razgrad earlier this month.