Robbie Neilson insists Hearts won’t deviate from their passing approach in defence despite the errors which led to Saturday’s defeat against Celtic.
The Tynecastle head coach firmly believes in playing the ball out from the back and stressed that won’t change.
Mistakes by Juwon Oshaniwa, Alim Ozturk and John Souttar were punished by a ruthless Celtic forward line – Colin Kazim-Richards, Patrick Roberts and Leigh Griffiths – all of whom scored in their 3-1 win in Edinburgh. The result virtually secures the Glasgow club’s fifth successive league title.
Neilson declared that Hearts’ passing philosophy will stay in place. They want a cultured, passing style from defence and intend to maintain that into next season. Neilson is confident the errors can – and will – be eradicated to help the club mount a serious challenge near the top of the league.
“We won’t change our philosophy, not at all,” he told the Evening News. “I thought at times we passed the ball really well on Saturday. In fact, I thought we could’ve passed it more. At times we went too direct. We have good players at the back who can play football and they’ll make mistakes. That’s it.
“The benefits you get from taking the chance are better than the negatives of maybe making a mistake every once in a while. I was more disappointed with Celtic’s second goal in the sense that we didn’t take responsibility to win the first header. There was a bit of a mix-up. As for the third goal, these things happen. You’re trying to pass it and they nick it.
“It’s a great finish by Griffiths. He’s been the best player in the league this year and every time he gets the ball you think he’s going to get a chance. His finish was fantastic.
“We’re making strides and we’re making steps forward. You’re never going to come up as a promoted team and dominate every game or win every game. You have to try to build and get better. We are getting better and in games like this we just need to take the next step to get a result. Hopefully, over the next couple of months, we can get players in who can take us that next step forward.”
Neilson explained his change in formation for the match: “We went to a 3-5-2 for the start of the game but then we felt we were a wee bit exposed on the left, so we changed it. In the second half, we came out and we were the dominant team. We had Celtic hemmed in, got the equaliser from Abiola Dauda, then it’s two mistakes. When you look at the chances Celtic created, they were all down to our errors. The pleasing thing about that is these mistakes can be rectified.
“It’s not a case of us playing against Celtic and they’re totally opening us up and destroying us. They didn’t do that all. We were strong, kept our shape well and competed. It’s just three moments where we had lapses in concentration.”
Callum Paterson’s omission from the starting line-up surprised some people but Neilson said it was a tactical decision. “I felt it didn’t really suit Callum to play in that wide area in a 3-5-2 as part of the five-man midfield,” he stated.
“At Parkhead a few weeks ago, we played Sam Nicholson there and it gave us more attacking threat in one-v-ones. I felt Don Cowie playing there on Saturday would give us that. It also gave us the chance to change shape, which we did in the first half. We brought Callum on at half-time to try and get more into the game.”