'The pressing wasn't working' - Hearts boss Robbie Neilson on Celtic loss and why Josh Ginnelly didn't start

Hearts boss Robbie Neilson felt the team were “too passive” in the first half of the Premier Sports Cup loss to Celtic as he revealed Josh Ginnelly wasn’t fit to start the game.

Hearts boss Robbie Neilson. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Hearts boss Robbie Neilson. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The Jam Tarts’ six-game winning run to start the season came to an end at Parkhead, the team losing 3-2 to exit the League Cup.

Hearts struggled in a first-half which Celtic had more than 20 shots and over 80 per cent of possession.

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Goals from Odsonne Edouard and Stephen Welsh gave the visitors a mountain to climb after the interval.

EDINBURGH , SCOTLAND - AUGUST 13: Manager Robbie Neilson is pictured during Heart of Midlothian media access at the Oriam, on August 13, 2021, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

“I thought in the first-half we were too passive at times,” Neilson said. “When you come to Celtic Park you have to be on the front foot, you have to make tackles, you have to be aggressive. We didn’t do that. We allowed them to pass it about too easily.

“We were disappointed to lose the goals we did. Although Celtic had a lot of possession and a lot of chances as well, the actual goals they scored weren’t great from our perspective. There are areas that we can improve in. I thought just being more positive in the press and when we had possession as well allowed us to get up the pitch and cause them more problems.

“When you come to Celtic Park you are not going to be able to do that for 90 minutes. That’s just the way it is. Very, very few teams in European football will come to Celtic Park and press and control the game for 90 minutes. You have to just accept that they are going to have possession of the ball, you have to pick the right places to press and try and keep them in and you also have to pick the areas where you are going to make it.

"In the first-half we had a plan to show them the wider areas, but the pressing wasn’t working.”

Change of shape

Hearts looked a different side after the interval with the introduction of Josh Ginnelly as the team reverted to an attacking trio before a switch to a 4-2-3-1 later in the match.

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Neilson revealed the winger wasn’t fit to start the game but was brought on to provide more attacking thrust.

Hearts got back into the game via a Liam Boyce penalty, scored late on through Aaron McEneff and offered a more attacking threat in general.

“We changed it at half-time and that allowed us to get more positivity into the team,” Neilson said. I thought in the second-half we were much better.

“It was a change of shape.

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"We knew that Ginnelly wasn’t going to be fit for the start of the game. We knew we were only going to get 30 or 40 minutes out of him. We brought him on at half-time and his pace changed the game. It allowed us to get up the pitch.

"We got [Gary] Mackay-Steven in an area where he can go and run. We started making subs to give us more of an attacking threat.

"We are disappointed to lose the game, but the positives are that in the second-half we showed we can go toe-to-toe with them.”

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