Robbie Neilson: Hearts still have much to learn

Hearts defender Liam Smith looks on in horror after St Johnstone's second goal. Pic: Ian Rutherford
Hearts defender Liam Smith looks on in horror after St Johnstone's second goal. Pic: Ian Rutherford
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Robbie Neilson advised Hearts players that they still have much to learn in the wake of St Johnstone’s convincing 3-0 win at Tynecastle. The head coach admitted his players received a harsh lesson but believes the experience will help them in the long term.

Two early Murray Davidson headers – both from corners – and a Darnell Fisher goal ended Hearts’ four-game winning league run. The Edinburgh club remain 13 points clear of fourth-placed Saints in the race for Europa League qualifying places and have a game in hand.

Neilson, pointing out that his defence contained three teenagers, said his youngsters would learn from the weekend defeat. “We need to be realistic about where we are. We were playing against a team with a lot of experience. The vast majority of St Johnstone’s team are 29 or 30, with 200 and 300 games for their club,” Neilson, pictured left, said.

“For us, it’s about trying to get experience into the players when they’re young and I think Saturday will actually help them. The joy for us in a scrappy game like that was turning their defence. We took too long to do it. When we were building the play, we took too long to put the ball in behind them. There are a lot of things to learn.

“We just didn’t deal with two corners. That was it. If you give a team a two-goal lead early on then it’s always going to be difficult. They get the impetus, they’ve got something to hold on to, they kill time, the make the game dead. They’re entitled to do that.

“We have to attack cross balls better. We have good height and physicality in the team. We shouldn’t be losing goals like that from set-plays.”

Neilson explained that club captain Alim Ozturk was left out of the side because of tight hamstrings. His presence in central defence was missed. “He wasn’t ready to play. If I force him to play and he tears his hamstring after ten minutes, we need to make a sub and he’s out for the rest of the season. There was no way he was going to play.”