Hearts boss Robbie Neilson thoroughly satisfied with friendly performance despite 2-0 Sunderland defeat

Robbie Neilson insists he was “really pleased” with Hearts’ friendly encounter with Sunderland despite going down by two goals to nil at Tynecastle Park.

By Craig Fowler
Saturday, 17th July 2021, 5:48 pm
Updated Saturday, 17th July 2021, 5:53 pm
Hearts' manager Robbie Neilson with former team-mates Jamie McAllister (left) and Sunderland manager Lee Johnson. Picture: SNS
Hearts' manager Robbie Neilson with former team-mates Jamie McAllister (left) and Sunderland manager Lee Johnson. Picture: SNS

The visitors netted twice from Aiden McGeady in the opening period, once from the penalty spot and the other just before the break, to give victory for the League One side.

Neilson’s comments may sound disingenuously positive to those who didn't see the match, but Hearts were worthy of at least a draw as they knocked the ball about impressively at times and frequently got into strong attacking areas. Only some impressive last-ditch Sunderland defending and a few wayward crosses stopped the home side from getting on the scoresheet.

Besides, pre-season is all about fitness and learning, and there was plenty for the Hearts boss to be satisfied with.

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He said: “I thought it was great, I was really pleased with it. You want to win all your pre-season games and for me it’s about continuing to work on the shape we’re trying to play and it’s good sometimes to show them little areas where we need to improve.

“The last few games in the Premier Sports Cup have been brilliant but probably not the challenge we faced today with the way they played in the pockets. There was a lot of stuff to take from it, both attacking and defensively.

“At times we were maybe a little open in the middle areas. We want to be aggressive in our pressing but we need to learn who to attack and when to sit, and which player is going.”

There were a few familiar faces for the Jambos boss in the opposition ranks. McGeady, whom Neilson faced during his playing days in Gorgie, netted twice for the visitors, while ex-team-mates Lee Johnson and Jamie McAllister made up the opposition management team.

He added: “Aiden is still sharp and has good feet and good movement. He’s done very well for them last season, he came back out of cold storage in January and was excellent and I think he’ll be a big player for them this year.

“It was good to catch up with Lee, I met Jamie Mac yesterday and then spoke to Lee today. They’re two guys I know very well.”

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