HEARTS are now averaging more than three goals a game in the Championship following their 5-0 win over Livingston on Sunday, and the worrying thing for their opponents is that Robbie Neilson has still to decide who are his first-choice strikers.
The head coach selected Osman Sow and Soufian El Hassnaoui together for the first time at the weekend, and the pair contributed three goals between them. But James Keatings also scored when he came on, with a chance laid on by fellow-substitute Dale Carrick, who scored twice himself against Cowdenbeath the previous week.
When Hearts start with a 4-5-1 formation, the burly Sow is the obvious choice to be the target man, but when it comes to picking a duo, Neilson is so far content for there not to be a settled pecking order.
“I’m trying to give them all a bit of game time and I don’t want to just have two guys as a partnership,” he said. “We just need to make sure they’re used to playing with each other.
“If one gets injured then it might take time for them to get a relationship. I’ll try and give them game time to get that relationship and we need them to form quickly, so if they have it already then it helps us.
“There is competition for places and there were guys disappointed who weren’t picked for the game. The last few games they’ve done great, but I pick a team to win a game and that is the important thing.
“I pick a team to win, but also to keep the others happy. I need to keep them motivated. It’s a team game, it’s a long season, there will be chances and they must be ready to take them.”
Hearts defender Alim Ozturk was also happy to praise all four front men used against Livingston, but he was particularly complimentary about Sow and El Hassnaoui, suggesting they were a better partnership than their more illustrious counterparts at Rangers.
“It was a good pairing up front with Osman and Soufian,” the centre half said. “And you can see that whoever is paired up front it looks promising. If Sow plays with James Keatings it’s the same, or Dale Carrick.
“But you could see on Sunday when Soufian and Osman were together that it was good. In fact, I think these two are the best partnership in the league. Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller? I wouldn’t swap for them.”
There is certainly a lot more to come from El Hassnaoui, a former Moroccan Under-21 international.