Robbie Neilson praises Hearts as four players reinforce spine of team for win at St Mirren

Robbie Neilson felt the spine of Hearts’ team was significantly stronger in the win at St Mirren thanks to four returning mainstays.

Saturday, 26th February 2022, 5:43 pm

Goalkeeper Craig Gordon, centre-back Craig Halkett, midfielder Beni Baningime and striker Liam Boyce were all back in the starting line-up after injury and illness.

Neilson felt they played a major part in the 2-0 win as Ellis Simms and Cammy Devlin scored following a first-half red card for St Mirren’s Conor Ronan.

“We don’t have a big squad,” said Neilson. “Today we had Gordon, Halkett, Beni Baninigme and Boyce all back. That’s the spine of the team, really experienced players. You get them back and it allows us to have quality on the bench to come on.

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Robbie Neilson was pleased with Hearts' display at St Mirren.

“We get to 50 or 60 minutes then we can bring on Simms, Josh Ginnelly, Alex Cochrane, Andy Halliday. It just gives us another lift. I’m delighted with the whole group.

“It’s always tough at St Mirren. They have a new manager and that bounce, plus they are very well organised. The sending off makes a difference but prior to that I thought we were playing pretty well anyway.

“I thought the referee got the key decisions right. It’s a stonewall red card. It’s not malicious but the boy has gone over the top of the ball. There was a penalty claim but the player jumps into the back of ours and looks for a penalty.”

St Mirren appealed for a foul when Simms collided with goalkeeper Jak Alnwick at Hearts’ second goal. “It’s a goal because you’ve got to challenge for it,” said Neilson. “Our boy [Simms] goes through and the keeper dives at his feet. The contact is together so I don’t see any issue with it at all.”

Stephen Robinson criticised referee Greg Aitken’s decisions as his St Mirren managerial debut ended in defeat. The Paisley club could decide to appeal Ronan’s red card for a high challenge on Baningime in midfield.

“Unfortunately, we have been done by decisions today,” complained Robinson. “We'll look at the red card to see if it's worth appealing against. You can control certain things but you can't control referees’ decision-making.”

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