Robbie Neilson explains what Hearts must improve on as pre-season tests get tougher

Robbie Neilson is pleased with how pre-season has gone for Hearts so far, but there is always room for improvement.

Wednesday’s first-half performance against Tranmere Rovers highlighted just that. The manager turned things round with a stern half-time team talk in which he impressed upon his players the need for more purpose and urgency in possession.

He got the response he was looking for, helped perhaps by the introduction of Stephen Kinglsey, Jorge Grant and Alan Forrest from the bench as Hearts came back from 1-0 down to win 2-1 against the English League 2 side.

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What he wants to do next is build into his team the wherewithal to recognise what isn’t working and what needs to change and then make the necessary adaptions on the pitch. Better leadership and better game management, in essence.

Robbie Neilson has identified room for improvement at Hearts after a poor first half against Tranmere Rovers. Picture: Mark Scates / SNS

“There's always stuff you want to improve on,” Neilson told the Edinburgh Evening News. “The learning curve for us is that we have to figure games out when we are out there.

“We can talk before about what we are going to do, but at times you have to adapt and I don't think we adapted well enough in the first half against Tranmere because we just kept doing the same thing and getting it wrong. At half time we spoke about changing it, but we have to figure it out before that.

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“It’s just about figuring out the game. It was like an away game against Motherwell, Ross County or St Johnstone. That’s the type of game it was and we need to learn how to cope with it.”

The opening 45 minutes against Tranmere has is the only blip in what has been an encouraging pre-season so far for Hearts, who have won five out of five, scoring 19 goals and conceding just one.

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“Pre-season has been very good so far,” Neilson added. “I’m very pleased with it. We’ve had a poor 45 minutes, but hopefully that’s the long one for a long time.”

His team will continue their countdown towards their opening cinch Premiership match against Ross County with three more tests against English opposition.

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League 2 Crawley Town visit Tynecastle Park on Saturday before Hearts face Preston North End next midweek and round off their pre-season at home to Stoke City.

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