Robbie Neilson gets reaction he needed after "passive" first half from Hearts

Robbie Neilson got the reaction he was looking for from his players after letting them know in no uncertain terms that the first half performance at Tranmere was not up to scratch.

The Hearts boss described his team’s abject first-half display at Prenton Park as “very, very poor”, but was pleased with the response after the break in the 2-1 victory against English League 2 side.

Micky Mellon’s team deservedly led 1-0 at the break, but a goal and an assist from Barrie McKay secured the win for Hearts, Liam Boyce heading the winner.

It maintains Hearts´ 100 per cent record in pre-season so far, but Tranmere were a step up from the part-time opponents Hearts have faced so far. Neilson felt Hearts were simply too passive.

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson. Picture: Mark Scates / SNS

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“First half weren't at it,” he said. “We were very, very poor. Second half miles better.

“I thought first half we were were passing it for the sake of passing it. It was a passive, typical pre-season game and we've got 17 days to the first game of the season, so it needed to be better.

“We spoke at half time about and got the reaction we wanted. I thought we were far better, far more aggressive in everything we did.

“We talk about keeping possession, but we try to keep possession for a reason. It's to try and get the ball forward, not to get 50 passes in a row and then give it away. I thought second half we were far better.”

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Neilson introduced Stephen Kinglsey, Alan Forrest and Jorge Grant from the bench at the interval but thought it was the change of attitude rather than personnel which made the difference.

“I think it was more the mentality of the group,” he replied when asked how much the subs had changed the game. “We're here to win games. We're not coming down here to just play. Yes, it about fitness but we're also coming to win.”

McKay, who was rested last week, played the full 90 minutes and improved as the game went on.“It's because he was in good areas,” explained Neilson. “First half he was picking the ball up in his own half. Barrie is a top player, but he is the biggest threat in the opposition's 18-yard box, so we had to get him there. When you get him there he's going to create goals and score goals. It's up to us to get him up the pitch.”