Robbie Neilson heaps praise on Hearts defenders

Robbie Neilson: In the market. Picture: SNS

Robbie Neilson: In the market. Picture: SNS

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ROBBIE Neilson has made the case for his defence after Hearts reached the halfway point in the season 15 points clear in the Championship – and having conceded just eight goals.

The Tynecastle outfit took advantage of Rangers’ 4-0 humbling against Hibs at Easter Road on Saturday to extend their ­already commanding advantage at the top of the table ahead of Saturday’s Edinburgh derby.

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A fourth opening goal in four games from on-form striker James Keatings secured a 1-0 ­victory in front of around 7,500 of their own supporters at Livingston.

However, after watching his team rack up a third consecutive shut-out and a tenth clean sheet in 18 undefeated league matches so far this term, Neilson was adamant that praise should be showered on his defenders.

The Hearts head coach said: “I thought the defence, the goalkeeper and the sitting midfielders were fantastic. They defended well and that’s another clean sheet for us.

“For all the plaudits the strikers get and the points on the board, the clean sheets are the main things for us. That’s us only lost eight goals, which is fantastic. So, all credit to them.”

Neilson is hopeful of being able to recall a handful of players in the coming weeks, with strikers Osman Sow, Souffian El Hassnaoui and Dale Carrick, and left-back Kevin McHattie all currently sidelined with injuries.

However, with none of those expected back in action this week, Neilson has confirmed he is optimistic he can sign a new striker – possibly by the time Hearts face Hibs on Saturday.

Hearts have made contact with “two or three” targets and would love to push through a deal once the transfer window opens on Thursday.

Neilson said: “There are people we’re interested in but these things take time.

“There are a couple of English ones and a couple of foreign ones as well. There are good players out there.

“The problem with the ­English market is that the salaries a lot of players are looking for far outstrip what you can get quality-wise on the continent. It’s just getting the right one.”

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