Nielson’s Koeman-style pass; Forrest cutting in; set-piece takers – 6 things you may have missed from Tranmere 1-2 Hearts
Here are six things you may have missed from Hearts’ 2-1 pre-season victory over Tranmere Rovers at Prenton Park.
Frailties at the back
Hearts had not conceded a goal in their four previous pre-season friendlies, but that record was broken just ten minutes into this match against English League 2 opponents. Kane Hemmings was unmarked six yards from goal when he bounced his header past Ross Stewart.
Tranmere Rovers presented a test that Robbie Neilson compared to St Johnstone, Motherwell or Ross County away.
Lewis Neilson, Toby Sibbick and Alex Cochrane is not a back three he will want to field very often, their first-half hesitancy surely reinforcing the manager’s determination to strengthen at right-sided centre-back.
Replacing John Souttar is not going to be easy.
Neilson’s Koeman-style pass
That said, Lewis Neilson did have his moment. The only real chance Hearts created in the first half came from Barrie Mckay’s low cross into Euan Henderson’s path for a first-time effort which went over the bar. But it came about because of a raking cross-field pass by Neilson to pick out McKay in an advance position on the left touchline.
Drilled from one side of the pitch to the other, it was reminiscent of legendary Dutch sweeper Ronald Koeman and opened up a Tranmere defence who hadn’t been expecting it.
For Ross Stewart, pre-season friendlies are a rare opportunity for minutes on the pitch. The back-up goalkeeper’s lack of match practice shows at times. He should probably have done a better job of keeping out the Tranmere goal and one clearance from a pass-back which put him under a bit of pressure was so high and wild it cleared the Johnny King Stand at Prenton Park. He couldn’t do it again if he tried.
Alan Forrest’s introduction from the bench at half time gave Hearts the injection of pace and urgency on the ball that they had been missing.
The winger is quick and direct, forcing defenders onto the back food and creating space elsewhere. He also has a tendency to cut in from both the right and left, leaving space out wide for the wing-backs to exploit.
Whether he starts or comes on from the bench, Forrest once again showed that he can be a very useful player for Hearts.
Set piece options
Barrie McKay was the dedicated corner and free-kick taker in the first half last night, but that job was handed to Jorge Grant when he came on.
The summer signing from Peterborough has been given that responsibility in most of the games he’s been involved in.
Grant’s delivery from set pieces could be a useful weapon Hearts can add to their attacking armoury this season.
Late night travel
The team bus took players and staff back to Edinburgh straight after the game, not arriving back until the early hours of this morning.
The purpose of that was to mimic the logistics of a Thursday night European away match in preparation for what lies ahead.
Hearts trained in Edinburgh on Tuesday morning before travelling down to stay overnight and did little more than go for a walk to stretch the legs during the day on Wednesday ahead of the 7.30pm kick-off. It was a long day waiting for the game, but they will have to get used to it.