Neilson stays tight-lipped on Hearts line-up

Osman Sow will start at Ibrox - but will he have an attacking partner?
Osman Sow will start at Ibrox - but will he have an attacking partner?
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OSMAN SOW will lead the Hearts attack at Ibrox this weekend, but head coach Robbie Neilson is refusing to confirm whether he will deploy a partner beside the giant Swede.

Neilson wants to keep his formation quiet until kick-off, although Sow is certain to be the main striker after scoring four goals in four appearances for the Edinburgh club so far.

Gary Oliver also has four goals during pre-season and is favourite to play just behind Sow. Neilson is keeping the rest of his team secret for the moment ahead of his first league game as a manager.

“I do know what my formation is going to be but I don’t really want to say whether it will be Sow on his own up front, or Sow with a partner or Sow with two partners,” he said. “I know what we’re going to do. We’ve had a plan for this week and we’ve got a couple of options that we can use to change things during a game.

“The boys know exactly what they need to do. We’ve got to that point now where they know the ins and outs of everything. This week has just been a case of reiterating it and trying to polish up on a few things.”

Asked if he feels Hearts are ready for their first SPFL Championship match, Neilson replied: “It’s difficult to tell exactly where you are over pre-season. From what we’ve done over the last week or two, we’ve got a rough idea that we’re just where we want to be.

“I’ve been in teams in the past where we’ve won every pre-season game convincingly and confidence is high. Then you come to the first league game and it’s flat and you lose. Equally, I’ve been in situations where we’ve had a horrendous pre-season and lost left, right and centre. Then the first game comes and, because you’ve had that worry about getting beat, things kick in and you win the first few games.”

The Rangers manager Ally McCoist has laughed off Neilson’s comments in Wednesday’s Evening News regarding Hearts’ preparations for Sunday. Neilson said he was working on playing ten men versus 11 in training in case of a red card, but McCoist claimed that was simply mind games.

“Well, if there’s anybody who knows about getting red cards maybe Robbie’s better qualified than most, shall we say,” grinned McCoist. “Is it mind games? Absolutely it’s mind games. But I did have a chuckle at Robbie’s comments, yes. He’s in the management door 30 seconds and he’s playing mind games already.

“Listen, we all got a giggle out of it and we took it the way it was meant. I would imagine he had his tongue firmly placed in his cheek while making the comment. Maybe he believes it, but I would have thought it was a tongue-in-cheek remark and, if we can’t have a smile, we are all toiling.”