Hearts host Celtic next week and Neilson said his players should now be looking up towards the Glasgow side in second. “They are the best nights, when you come in after the game and teams have dropped points here and there and you get yourself a bit further up,” he said.
“We are eight clear in third place. The aim for us now has to be up the way. We are nine behind Celtic. We’ve got them here in the next league game and a chance to get a wee bit closer again.
“If we can up the way to these top teams then we don’t need to worry about what’s behind us.”
Neilson reiterated the fact Hearts’ primary focus is qualifying for Europe despite a frenzy of attention since defender John Souttar signed a pre-contract with Rangers.
Souttar was jeered by some Tynecastle fans against St Johnstone. “John is a mentally strong character. He’s come back from three career-threatening injuries. I only know a few people who have come back from a single Achilles rupture, never mind three.
“You know he’s very strong mentally, he can blank out the background noise and get on with the game. I thought he played very well.
“I’ve said all along the club is bigger than any individual player, coach or manager. The focus has to be on progressing the club forward, getting the three points, European qualification, winning cups.
“The pressure was on as we were expected to win so I was pleased. St Johnstone had a couple of chances and we had a penalty claim. There are still areas to work on but once we got the goal we were quite comfortable.
“I thought Barrie McKay and Ginnelly did very well. We spoke about the movement at half time, to get Ginnelly inside to use his pace because he can be a threat in that area. I was delighted with the two of them.”