24 April 2022

Robbie Neilson delighted depleted Hearts overcome injures to beat Dundee United

24 April 2022

Robbie Neilson was delighted with the way his depleted Hearts squad overcame a host of injuries to maintain their momentum with an impressive 3-2 win at Dundee United.

The Tynecastle side were missing key quintet Michael Smith, John Souttar, Stephen Kingsley, Craig Halkett and Andy Halliday, while Cammy Devlin and Ellis Simms were named among the subs despite not being fully fit.

In addition, Aaron McEneff was forced off after just 15 minutes of a match in which third-placed Hearts made it nine games in a row unbeaten and moved 19 points clear of fourth-placed United.

“We have come to the team sitting fourth in the league and won even though we have seven or eight injuries,” said Neilson. “Ben Woodburn was the only one of the subs who was properly fit.

“Ellis Simms has been carrying a knock so we knew we’d only get 20 minutes or so out of him.

“Cammy Devlin isn’t ready to play but we put him on the bench anyway and we also had a couple of young kids.

“So we are down to the bare bones but the bones are strong. The players are doing well, the guys who are coming in have been outstanding.

“We made four changes today and then Aaron McEneff goes off injured early on. But the quality of player who is coming in is very good.

“Josh Ginnelly came in today and I was delighted with him, then Ben Woodburn comes on in a position he’s not used to.

“Taylor Moore has not played much but came in and looked comfortable. It’s important to have that. We are in a decent place right now.”

Neilson was pleased with the way his side reacted to losing a fourth-minute opener.

“I thought we started poorly and were too passive,” said the Hearts manager.

“United put us under pressure with the goal and could have had another one.

“It took them scoring the goal to fire us into life a bit, but once we got control of the game I was confident we’d get the goals.

“The fans spend their money coming up here so we can’t say we’ve got a cup final in five weeks and get the cigar out. When you play with Hearts you’ve got to win.”

United boss Tam Courts was disappointed his side once again failed to build on a promising start as he encouraged them to embrace the battle for a European place.

“There are a lot of recurring themes with us just now in terms of starting games off really well, getting our noses in front, then not ramming home the authority we’re building in the game,” he said.

“I think what’s missing is the rhythm and possession that would allow us to build a bit of confidence and flow in the game and make us a more regular attacking threat.

“The game and the opponent today were begging for us to go and put them to the sword. That’s how it felt from the side but Hearts are a good team and they fought their way back into the game.

“I’m just not actually feeling a freedom from the players that would allow us to be brave, fearless, take some risks and look like we’re actually enjoying being in the top six, which is a big achievement.”

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