Hearts coach Robbie Neilson praised Gavin Reilly’s performance against Celtic and said the young forward is beginning to show why a five-figure sum was paid for his services.
Neilson agreed a development fee with Queen of the South to sign Reilly, pictured, on a three-year contract in June. The player has taken time to adapt to Premiership football but his industry and speed were a feature of yesterday’s 2-2 draw with Celtic at Tynecastle.
Sam Nicholson and Osman Sow scored Hearts’ goals - the Swede with a magnificent 25-yard equaliser in stoppage-time – but Reilly’s display was as notable as any.
He is expected to keep his place in the starting line-up against Dundee United on Wednesday night with the Spanish striker Juanma Delgado still suspended. Neilson explained that Reilly is forcing his way into a prominent position.
“We’ve got three main strikers at the club - Juanma, Sow and Reilly,” said the head coach. “Juanma and Sow have been the mainstays for the majority of the season but we always knew we would need Gavin. That’s the reason we spent money and brought him in.
“Very rarely do Scottish teams like ourselves pay any money for somebody but we felt it was the right thing to do. It might take him six months, it might take him a year to show his true worth but yesterday you could see why we brought him here. He created a lot of problems, especially in the first half.
“Gavin gave us exactly what I thought he would. That’s why I brought him from Queen of the South. He gives you energy and pace. He’s willing to run over the top and play on the shoulder. I thought he did really well and I was really pleased with him.
“When he first came into the team he did really well, then he had a little dip. It’s always the same with players coming into a big club. It takes time for them to develop he’s starting to show why we brought him here. He’s still got a bit of developing to do but I think he’s a great option to have. He’ll come in and give us work rate and hopefully score goals.”
The draw ended a sequence of seven consecutive Celtic wins at Tynecastle. “I definitely believe the gap is getting closer,” continued Neilson. “Financially it isn’t but the belief in our team that they can go toe to toe with a team like Celtic is definitely there.
“I thought we did what we wanted to do for the majority of the game and got joy out of it, but it’s consistently doing that right through the game and not switching off. We’re getting better at it. We need to continue working on it.
“I think it would’ve been unfair if we hadn’t got the late goal from Osman. All in all, a point is a decent outcome but we really wanted to win. We probably could have scored a couple with the chances we had.”