Hearts undaunted by trips to Glasgow after finishing on top in loss to Rangers, says Robbie Neilson
Robbie Neilson insists Hearts no longer fear trips to Glasgow and proved as much by finishing as the “team in the ascendency” at Ibrox.
The 1-0 defeat by Rangers means Hearts have now lost six games in a row against Giovanni Van Bronckhorst's team, but Neilson was proud of the performance and feels his side should have been more clinical with the limited number of chances they created.
“I'm proud of the workrate,” he told BBC Sportsound. “I thought they worked extremely hard. Defensively we were sound. Coming through to Glasgow now is not a daunting place for us. It's a place where we want to try and impose ourselves and I thought we did that.
“There were periods of the game when we were on top, periods when, as always when you come here, Rangers were on top. But I think it shows how far we've come when the last 20, 25 minutes there's time-wasting going on and Rangers were happy to take 1-0. We were the team probably in the ascendency.
“The most pleasing thing for me was that the players worked extremely hard. The fans stayed right to the end. We had a full allocation. They could see the work rate that the players are putting in every day. Again they have given everything for the club and that's all you can ask.”
“When you come through to Glasgow you don't get a lot of opportunities, so when they do come you have to take them. That was probably the feeling we had. We did create a couple of chances but didn't take them. So that's something we need to be better at if we are going to get results through here.”
One of the chances came early in the second half when Josh Ginnelly’s low cut-back was finger-tipped by Rangers goalkeeper Alan McGregor through Andy Halliday’s legs to deny the Hearts midfielder a tap-in from five yards. “It was great play,” added Neilson. “It happens in football. We've had a number of opportunities this season when we should probably put the ball in the net and we haven't managed to do it.”
Lawrence Shankland, who operated in a No10 role, played his part in that chance by holding the ball and up and playing in Ginnelly on the right flank. Neilson was pleased with his contributed but disappointed that his team could not create a chance for his top scorer. “We asked him to play slightly deeper and then moved him further up as the game went on,” the manager explained. “He's turning into a top striker. Not only does he score goals, he links the game and uses his physicality. We just need to create more chances for him.”
Hearts play Livingston at Tynecastle in their final game before the World Cup break, which provides Neilson and his squad a chance to reset after a hectic schedule and an accumulation of injuries.
“We've enjoyed this period,” added the Hearts boss. “We've played 25 games since the start of the season, which is a lot more than the majority of teams in Scotland. But that's what we want to do. We want to play group stage European football. We've shown in recent weeks that we can do that and come back and win at the weekend. That's the objective now. Can we get ourselves back into the European group stages and continue to win in the league.”