Robbie Neilson strongly defends Hearts striker Liam Boyce and backs him to score against Celtic

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson today offered a strong defence of top goalscorer Liam Boyce following missed chances against Ross County.

Boyce was frustrated at passing up two second-half opportunities to win the game, which ended goalless. The County goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw stopped his first effort and the second landed wide of target.

Boyce is Hearts’ top goalscorer with 16 in 37 appearances this season. He has scored only twice since January but Neilson is unperturbed and backed the player to find the net against Celtic this weekend.

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Asked if criticism of Boyce is unfair, Neilson replied: “It’s part of being at a big club. People think strikers at Hearts should be scoring every week but it doesn’t happen like that. He is our top goalscorer and one of the top goalscorers in the league.

“He had a couple of chances on Saturday, didn't score, but he’s big enough to get himself into positions next week [at Celtic Park] and then he’ll probably score.

“You have periods when you’re scoring and periods when you aren’t. Liam got himself into good positions against County, especially for the second chance. He just didn’t quite get his foot round the ball.

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“He will be disappointed. We got into good areas in the game but our final moment wasn’t there and that was the problem.

“Boycie is 31 years old. He’s been through periods in his career where he doesn’t score, then he kicks into life and scores six inside four games. That’s just strikers for you.

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Hearts manager Robbie Neilson with striker Liam Boyce.

“I’ve got no qualms with him at all. He has scored goals consistently throughout his career and he will come back good.”

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