Neilson: Hearts must deal with teams playing for a draw

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson battles to win the ball back on the touchline with Ross County counterpart Jim McInytre. Pic: Ian Georgeson
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson battles to win the ball back on the touchline with Ross County counterpart Jim McInytre. Pic: Ian Georgeson
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Robbie Neilson today told Hearts they must deal with teams coming to Tynecastle for a point after Saturday’s goalless draw with Ross County.

The head coach lamented his team’s inability to score and stressed players must get used to away teams trying to stifle them.

Tony Watt and Conor Sammon had two efforts each saved by the County goalkeeper Scott Fox on a frustrating afternoon for the Edinburgh club. Fox produced an inspired performance as the Highlanders used all of their resilience to earn a draw, despite Ian McShane’s dismissal six minutes from time. Neilson believes Hearts’ attacking threat means more and more teams will come to Tynecastle and defend doggedly.

“We created a lot of chances and a lot of excitement but credit to Ross County. They came here and it seemed they were playing for a draw. They were trying to sit in. That’s the level we’re at now,” Neilson told the Evening News.

“Teams that are steady and looking at the top six will come to Tynecastle and try to get a draw. It’s up to us to try and win these games. We did everything we wanted to do on Saturday apart from put the ball in the net. It’s part of football. The worry is when you don’t create chances. We have Tony Watt, Bjorn Johnsen, Conor Sammon, Don Cowie – numerous players who are creating chances but’re just not finishing. It will come.”

Neilson wants his forwards to be more ruthless, although he admitted he would be far more concern if scoring chances weren’t being created. “At the back, we gave up one chance against St Johnstone last week and one at the weekend. On the other hand, we’re creating five, six, seven chances.

“When you actually see the stats, it looks good. But this is about points. The league table is the most important stat. We should have five more points than we have so there is a frustration. We all feel the team is doing really well, we’re just not getting that final touch.”

John Souttar was forced off injured after 30 minutes against County but is expected to train this week. He was replaced by Alim Ozturk, who earned praise from Neilson for his response to losing the captaincy last week.

“John got a dead leg and it started to seize up. I don’t see any issues with him joining in training during the week. He’s been really good for us recently but he wasn’t at the right level because of the injury.

“Alim came on and did really well. He’s shown a great level of professionalism. He’s a big part of the squad and he’s got a huge part to play here. He just has to wait for his time. He has prepared properly and he came in and played well on Saturday.”

Meanwhile, Ross County defender Andrew Davies explained why he got involved in an angry exchange with Hearts fans near the end of Saturday’s game. He was taken off after an aerial collision and responded to comments from supporters in the front of Tynecastle’s main stand.

“Some of the fans were saying some unpleasant things to me. I had just been knocked out so I wanted to let them know I was disappointed with some of the comments,” said Davies.

“That’s fans for you. They don’t have any feelings for players whatsoever. My head isn’t too bad. It was quite a knock but I was looking for a penalty and I would have felt a lot better if we’d been given that, unfortunately it wasn’t.”

• Hearts defender Liam Smith has joined Raith Rovers on a month-long emergency loan following an injury to the Fife club’s captain, Jason Thomson.