Hearts coach Neilson says off-the-ball work must be better

Robbie Neilson at the derby last night. Pic: Ian Georgeson
Robbie Neilson at the derby last night. Pic: Ian Georgeson
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Robbie Neilson insists Hearts’ Under-20s must improve on the “ugly side of the game” after they were out-fought by Hibs when conditions deteriorated in the second half of last night’s derby in snowy Livingston.

The sending off of left-back Elliot Ford just after Hibs had levelled at 1-1 didn’t help Hearts’ cause either as they went down to a 3-2 defeat.

“In the first half we played really well, but then the heavens opened and in the second half it became a bit of a dogfight,” said Neilson, Hearts’ player development manager. “The red card turned the game, but we didn’t compete well enough in the second half and that’s been an issue for us. When we have the ball, we’re fantastic, but that’s only 50 per cent of the game. We need to work on our play when we don’t have it and learn to do the ugly side a lot better.”

Neilson felt the age difference in the sides was also a factor. “We’ve got a very young team at the moment so it’s a steep learning curve. Even our two overage players, Kevin McHattie and Callum Tapping, are only six months too old to be considered Under-20s, so it’s not like we’re bringing in 27-year-olds as our experienced players.”