Hearts tell Alim Ozturk to let fly again in derby

Alim Ozturk's thunderous drive in stoppage time denied Hibs a victory in the most recent derby at Easter Road
Alim Ozturk's thunderous drive in stoppage time denied Hibs a victory in the most recent derby at Easter Road
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Hearts will encourage centre- back Alim Ozturk to try and replicate his 40-yard goal when Hibs visit Tynecastle in the New Year Edinburgh derby.

The Turk’s shooting power produced a last-gasp equaliser when the teams met at Easter Road in October and he will be given licence to conjure a repeat on Saturday.

Robbie Neilson, the Hearts head coach, has studied footage of both this season’s derbies, plus Hibs’ 4-0 win over Rangers last week. He is eager to improve on his team’s most recent performance against their Capital rivals, which almost saw them lose their unbeaten league record until Ozturk’s stunning strike in stoppage time earned a 1-1 draw.

Ozturk will be told to let fly again this weekend if the opportunity presents itself. “We try to get him forward in every game, that’s a part of the way we play,” said Neilson. “We like him to step forward into midfield and we have players who can cover him. We can score goals, that’s one of the pleasing things. We’ve had a lot of different goalscorers. It’s something we will continue to work on.”

Another tactical change is likely for Hearts, with Neilson admitting his team’s performance levels have dipped slightly in recent weeks. They won three matches in seven days last week to go 15 points clear of second-placed Rangers in the Scottish Championship. However, Neilson is still demanding improvement. “We’ll change our style a wee bit again,” he continued. “We’ve watched the last game against Hibs and we need to make sure we do things differently from that match. I didn’t think we played great so there are things we’re going to work on which will hopefully give us some joy.

“We’ll look at what we could’ve done better against Hibs. We’ll approach it the same as every game. We’re coming off the back of a good run of results and we’re confident, although it will be a difficult game. Hibs have hit a bit of form but we will just look after our own performance. If we do that, I’m confident we’ll get what we deserve from the game.

“Probably the performances of late haven’t been as good as they were in previous months but we’re still scoring goals, creating chances and defending well. Going into the derby, we’re confident we can get a result.”