Robbie Neilson explains why Hearts have struggled to deal with direct Motherwell

Robbie Neilson wants his Hearts team to be better at standing up to Motherwell’s awkward style of play next season after a second league defeat of the season at Fir Park.

The Jambos failed to deal with Motherwell’s ferocious pressing in the 2-0 loss in November and on Wednesday succumbed in the second half when the hosts brought on target man Kevin Van Veen at half time and tweaked their approach to knock the visitors off their stride.

It resulted in a tenth league defeat of the season, albeit in a game of very little consequence with third place already guaranteed.

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However, Celtic Park is the only other venue where Hearts have lost twice in the league all season and Neilson reckons there are lessons to learn about how to deal with Motherwell’s direct style of play.

Motherwell's Jake Carroll and Nathaniel Atkinson challenge for the ball in the air at Fir Park

“I thought in the second half we got drawn into the kind of game they want to play, which is direct, free kicks, throw-ins, corners,” he told the Edinburgh Evening News. “We need to get better at dealing with that.”

Topping up fitness levels for some and resting others ahead of the Scottish Cup final was the priority, but after dominating the first half, Hearts could not maintain their rhythm and tempo.

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Neilson added: “I thought we had a brilliant first half. Totally dominated the game, loads of chances and didn’t take them.

“You come here, they make the game really scrappy. The ball is never on the pitch. That’s the way they play. We never dealt with it second half and to their credit they managed to get the goal.”