Hearts bank a tidy six-figure sum for win in Riga as club give Craig Halkett injury update
Thursday night’s Europa Conference League win in Riga earned Hearts a significant six-figure sum through UEFA’s points reward system.
The governing body pay out €500,000 for any group-stage win in the competition, which converts to £436,000 at current rates. Lawrence Shankland’s penalty and Alan Forrest’s late strike gave Hearts a 2-0 victory over Latvian champions RFS at the Skonto Stadium.
The result puts them second in Group A after two games, two points ahead of RFS and Italian gians Fiorentina.
“I’m delighted to get the win and the three points,” said manager Robbie Neilson afterwards. “We knew coming here we were playing against a very good team, they drew with Fiorentina last week.
“So we knew we had to be prepared. They created some chances but I thought over the course of the game we created more clear-cut ones. I’m really pleased, firstly for the fans. What a night they are going to have tonight, they have backed this cub to the absolutely hilt, they put their money in every month.
“It’s expensive to come here at this time of year, hopefully we have repaid them a bit.”
Winger Josh Ginnelly enjoyed perhaps his finest outing in a Hearts shirt but it was Shankland and substitute Forrest who claimed the goals.
“I thought that was one of Josh’s best games for us, he had a real commitment to go by people, go at people. We spoke about getting crosses in and he did exactly what we wanted. In that final wee moment sometimes it comes and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Hearts lost defender Craig Halkett early in the match with a suspected recurrence of the hamstring injury which sidelined him for a month before the trip to Riga.
“It’s always a risk but hopeuflly it is not as bad as the last time. He felt a wee twinge in the same spot and felt it was better to come off,” said Neilson. “He won’t make Motherwell on Sunday but then we have a couple of weeks and I am hoping he’ll be back after that.
“It keeps just flagging up a wee bit, which is disappointing. Lewis Neilson came on was outstanding for a 19-year-old kid to come in and play Conference League against a very good team. Physically he did well and on the ball he was outstanding as well. In time he will be a top player.
“I’m delighted at being second but we need to go to Fir Park on Sunday now. This is great to be involved in, it’s great to get a result but the league is our bread and butter. It’s the most important thing, we need to get back to winning ways there.
“Let’s not get too carried away, Fiorentina are third or fourth in Serie A, they’re not a bad side. It will be another very tough game but I hope tonight gives the players confidence that they can play and win games at this level.
“It’s all about recovery now. The club have been brilliant. We are staying here tonight so we can recover properly and then we’ll fly back. We’ll be as prepared as possible and they will be because are are starting to get used to this now.”