HEARTS coach Robbie Neilson today acclaimed the three substitutes who turned Saturday’s game against Hamitlon on its head.
Sam Nicholson, Robbie Muirhead and Bjorn Johnsen helped the Edinburgh club overhaul a 1-0 deficit to win 3-1 and move second in the Ladbrokes Premiership. Nicholson had the greatest impact and was heavily involved in Hearts’ first and second goals before scoring the third himself. Muirhead was also a major catalyst in the turnaround, whilst Johnsen’s energy troubled the tiring Hamilton defence during the Tynecastle side’s late surge.
Ali Crawford had volleyed Hamilton ahead on 50 minutes, but Neilson’s changes injected fresh energy into his team at a crucial point midway through the second half.
Nicholson was left out of the starting line-up from the 2-1 win at Partick Thistle two weeks ago but responded emphatically.
“That’s what you want. You want players who will react like that,” Neilson said. “The three subs came on and made a massive difference. We started the game well and then had a lull and went a goal behind. We brought Nicholson, Johnsen and Muirhead on and they all had an impact.”
Nicholson crossed for Walker to head the equaliser and then took Muirhead’s pass into the box and won a disputed penalty, which Walker converted. From Muirhead’s cross in stoppage-time, Nicholson casually flicked home the final goal.
“Robbie’s touch through to Nicholson for the penalty was different class. Then he delivers the back-post ball as well [for Nicholson’s goal], which was great. We have these players of real quality there ready to come on,” continued Neilson.
“I’d kind of planned to keep Sam back and put him on for the last 30 minutes. We felt it would give us a bit of a lift. We put him on the left to begin with but then Gillespie [Hamilton’s left-back] was booked so we switched Sam to the right. We knew he could go at him. I was pleased with the quality and the influence he had on the game.”