Rangers in Glasgow is the ultimate test for Hearts as new Premiership leaders face next challenge
Robbie Neilson insists Hearts must confront one of their biggest challenges after moving top of the Premiership – trying to beat Rangers in Glasgow.
After watching his team climb to the top of the Premiership with a 2-0 win against Motherwell at Tynecastle, the manager identified winning away to the champions as the next task to embrace.
Neilson won’t become overconfident seeing his unbeaten side at the league summit because he knows even harder assignments lie in wait. They travel to Ibrox in two weeks’ time following the international break.
“We are only eight games in. We've had a lot of challenges this season,” he said. “The first one was could we improve the away record? Playing at Tynecastle, historically, we win the majority of our games.
“I think in the last 15-20 years, Hearts have won more than 50 per cent of their away games once, so that's the first thing for us to try and rectify. The second one we spoke about at the start of the season is can we go to Glasgow and win?
“That's the next challenge for us. It's going to be tough but, no matter what happens tomorrow [when previous leaders Rangers play Hibs], we go to Ibrox close to them.
“We've got a young players in the team: Alex Cochrane, Beni Baningime, Cameron Devlin, Ben Woodburn. These are young guys improving all the time, so it's another test for them to go there. It will be tough but we have a belief we can go there and perform.
“That is the ultimate aim for every team because that tells you where you are. Can you go to Glasgow and win? It’s different beast when you go through to Glasgow so we need to be ready for that.
“We have players who can handle the ball and players that can work defensively so we will go there and we will give it a shot.”
Neilson stated his team must maintain standards to keep their place among the Premiership’s top teams. “We are up there at the moment but can we do it consistently? That is the key. We are sitting on a high but there is going to be a low,” he added.
“Eight games in we are unbeaten but we are going to lose a game. We don’t want it to be next week or the week after, we want to keep it going as long as possible.”
Liam Boyce’s penalty and Liam Kingsley's free-kick put Hearts 2-0 ahead against Motherwell inside 22 minutes. Graham Alexander, the Fir Park manager, was not overly despondent despite the defeat.
“I know we have won points when we haven’t played particularly well,” he said. “A couple of penalties against Hibs and Hearts have beat us and there is a lot to build on. There is a real positive vibe around the club and we are in a great position.
“We are in a position, after eight games, where no one expected us to be. We are always going to go out and throw punches if we can.”