Robbie Neilson explains Joe Wright plan after trialist scores in big Hearts win over East Fife
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The 27-year-old Englishman played for just over an hour in the middle of a back three and netted with a diving header six yards out from new signing Jorge Grant’s free-kick to give Hearts a 3-0 lead at half time in a testimonial match for East Fife stalwart Kevin Smith.
Stephen Kingsley bagged a rare hat-trick and there were also goals for Gary Mackay-Steven, Finlay Pollock and summer signing Alan Forrest, with ten outfield subs coming on after 62 minutes in what was Hearts’ second pre-season match.
Wright will be involved again against Spartans at Ainslie Park on Wednesday and Bonnyrigg Rose on Saturday, the free agent making a good first impression in what was his first game in a long time.
After five years at Doncaster Rovers he missed the whole of last season through injury and has taken up a long-standing invite to spend pre-season with Hearts after completing hid rehab.
Although not put under pressure defensively by the Fifers, he was very assured on the ball and took his goal well.
“I liked what I saw, so he needs to keep that up,” Neilson told the Edinburgh Evening News. “He'll keep playing and training. We've got a game on Wednesday night. He'll be involved in that a little bit and then there's the game on Saturday, so we'll see how he does.”
He added: “We spoke to him a while ago and obviously he got quite a bad injury and was in rehab. He's just coming back.
“So he's come up and we're having a look at him. He'll be involved in these next few games and then we'll make a decision.”
Wright’s goal came after stunning early strikes, both fired powerfully into the top corner, from McKay-Steven and Pollock in the opening 15 minutes.
After the break Kingsley kept up the theme of spectacular goals with a sweet dipping half-volley from longe range, then headed a second and completed a rare hat-trick with a penalty. Forrest netted with virtually his first touch after coming off the bench, controlling and converting Aron McEneff’s through-ball.
It could have been more against a somewhat experimental East Fife XI which included three trialists and Smith, the 35-year-old striker who has now signed for Bonnyrigg after eight years at New Bayview.
Neilson was delighted with his team’s execution in front of goal and satisfied with the performance.
“We showed our quality in the final moments, which was pleasing,” he added. “We’re trying to get a way of playing but I still think we have a bit to go – there were bits and bobs. To be honest, we won 7-0 but I don’t think we were brilliant. I thought we did alright.
“The quality finishes were there. But it is early doors. It was only our second game.
“To be fair, East Fife doesn't have a big squad. We have the ability to change it throughout the game. After 60 minutes bring more on. I’m pleased to get through it without injuries.”
Hearts (3-4-3): Stewart; McGill (Logan 45), Wright (Neilson 62), Kingsley (Sibbick 62); M Smith (Forrest 62), Haring (Devlin 62), Grant (McEneff 62), Cochrane (Halliday 62); Pollock (Ginnelly 62), Boyce (Henderson 62), Mackay-Steven (C Smith 45). Sub not used: Stone.
Attendance: 1,175. Referee: Scott Lambie