Hearts facing ‘hardest run of fixtures in league’

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson is braced for tough matches against Aberdeen, St Johnstone and Celtic. Pic: SNS
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson is braced for tough matches against Aberdeen, St Johnstone and Celtic. Pic: SNS
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Robbie Neilson today turned his attention to a formidable three-game sequence after Hearts’ Premiership clash at home to Inverness fell victim to the weather on Saturday.

The third-place Tynecastle side face second-place Aberdeen at Pittodrie this Saturday lunchtime before visiting fourth-place St Johnstone a week later. They then welcome league leaders Celtic on Sunday, December 27.

“It’s the hardest run of fixtures we could have, with the three teams nearest us in the league,” head coach Neilson told the Evening News. “It’s going to be a difficult period. We know these teams are in good form, but we’re sitting in a good position just now and we want to stay there.”

After the Tynecastle clash with Caley Thistle was called off early on Saturday morning due to high winds, Neilson took the opportunity to head to Dens Park to see Aberdeen record a 2-0 victory over 
Dundee and move four points clear of Hearts. It was the Dons’ third win in four games since they emerged from an alarming six-game run without a victory.

“I went to Dens and Aberdeen played well,” said Neilson. “I think that’s them probably back on form. They had a bit of a blip, like we did, but I expect them to continue to pick up points. They are a team we’re trying to target. I think we can compete, put in a good performance and hopefully come away with three points.”

St Johnstone closed to within a point of Hearts after a 3-2 win away to Ross County, and Neilson feels they are genuine contenders for a European place.

“St Johnstone are doing really well at the moment,” he said. “Tommy Wright’s got them working really hard. I was up to see them last weekend against Dundee and in the first half they were different class. They’re an experienced team with good players and probably where they should be in the league.

“They’re a top-six team and they can definitely challenge ourselves and Aberdeen over the course of the season. They know how to win games. On Saturday they were 2-0 up at Ross County and got pegged back to 2-2.

“A lot of teams at that point would settle for a point or end up losing the game, but they go and get a last-minute winner. It shows they know what they’re doing.”

Neilson, meanwhile, had no qualms with the postponement of Saturday’s match. A new date is yet to be announced.

“It was definitely the right decision to call it off,” he said. “The weather was horrific and was causing problems with the stadium and things. We had to make an early decision because it’s not fair on the Inverness fans and players coming all that way down, so I was pleased that we were able to let them know so early.”

Hearts Under-20s’ Little Big Shot Youth Cup fourth-round clash with Inverness, due to be played at Ochilview yesterday, also fell victim to the weather.