The tussle for the Premiership lead enters another stage today, with Aberdeen hoping to capitalise on any slip-up by Celtic.
But, as the league championship veers nearer to a conclusion, Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson says his men will have a major say in how it ends. In their first season back in the top flight, they are already looking fairly comfortable in third place, but, with nine games to go, they haven’t given up on challenging the clubs above them, starting with adding another three points against Dundee at Dens Park today.
“It’s good for everyone,” Neilson said of the top-of-the-table intrigue. “We’d like to get as close as we can and we play Aberdeen twice and we play Celtic twice. We’re going to have a big say in where [the title] goes. It’s going to be very difficult for us to get close to either of them because they’re good teams in good form but we have to keep winning. If we do that, it keeps that cushion from fourth place and gives us a chance to get as close as we can.”
Neilson’s men will have to show they have the spirit and the quality to negotiate a testing end to the current season.
“I’m excited to be playing big games,” he added. “The last five games of the season, actually, our last nine games, after Dundee, are going to be big games. We play St Johnstone, Celtic, Inverness and Aberdeen and then we hit the split and the last five, so we are talking about nine games that are against top teams in the country so it will be a difficult run-in but one we are looking forward to being involved in.
“We were a Championship team who got ourselves promoted and we wanted to get top six and believed, if we did that, then we would have done well but now we are sitting in a good position and we still want to aim up. Yes, it’s been a great season so far but you always want to aim as high as you can get. ”
Looking to what he hopes will be a bright future, Neilson has extended the contract of Canadian youngster Dario Zanatta. The 18-year-old, who has made his breakthrough into the first team, with ten appearances already, has signed a new three-year-deal that will tie him to the club until May 2019.