ROBBIE NEILSON today implored Hearts to build on the defensive resolve shown in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Celtic. However, the result did come at a cost for the Tynecastle club.
Full-back Callum Paterson received his sixth league booking this season to trigger an automatic one-match suspension. He now misses the visit to Dundee United on Sunday, October 18.
It was a price Hearts paid for a determined and dogged display which earned a welcome point at the home of the Ladbrokes Premiership champions. After being criticised for leaking goals this season, there was plenty satisfaction at shutting Celtic out.
Neilson is now determined to continue in the same vein when Kilmarnock visit Tynecastle on Saturday. He left captain Alim Ozturk on the bench at Parkhead and was delighted to see his back line hold firm under relentless Celtic pressure.
“It was good to see us defend like that but we need to continue it now,” the head coach told the Evening News. “We can’t just do it when we come to Parkhead. We need to do it next week at Tynecastle and then in the next game and the next game.
“Last season, we built our whole game and our whole season on not losing goals. This season we’ve lost a lot already. We have to get back to being secure at the back. That lets our more technical players go and win the game.
“Everyone takes confidence from this. We rode our luck a bit in the first half but in the second half we defended really well. Celtic never really created any clear chances. They had a goal ruled out for offside, other than that it was long-range efforts really. We have to continue it now.”
After last week’s narrow win at Kilmarnock in the League Cup, Neilson and his players thrashed out their defensive problems at Riccarton on Thursday and Friday.
“We did some work with them, we watched the video of the Kilmarnock game and we spoke to them. Ultimately, it’s down to them,” he explained.
“On Saturday, we put our head on things, got back in and defended, stayed narrow with full-back tucked in, so I was pleased. Neil Alexander did well coming out and claiming things as well.”
Ozturk was left out due to a niggling hernia problem, with Blazej Augustyn and Igor Rossi paired together in central defence.
“Alim got a hernia operation in the summer and he’s struggled with it recently,” said Neilson. “He’s had to play because we’ve had injuries and suspensions.
“Now we have Augustyn, Rossi and Oshaniwa all back so I thought it was a chance to get him right. He’s not far away.
“I just felt we’ve asked too much of him recently when he’s been carrying an injury.”