Hearts boss Robbie Neilson hails St Johnstone as ‘good benchmark’ for Scottish clubs

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson. Picture: SNS Group
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson. Picture: SNS Group
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HEARTS will conclude a successful return to the top flight this season against a St Johnstone team who gave them inspiration on the opening day.

Robbie Neilson’s side began their Ladbrokes Premiership campaign following promotion from the Championship with a 4-3 home over the Perth men at Tynecastle.

It was that performance and result against a club who are these days regular top-half finishers which imbued the Gorgie club with encouragement for the months ahead.

The Jambos’ third-place finish has guaranteed a spot in the Europa league qualifiers and on Sunday they will bookend their campaign against Tommy Wright’s side, who have secured fourth place after another solid season.

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Neilson told Press Association Sport: “They had a good campaign last season and they kept a lot of their team together.

“They are a good benchmark for every club in Scotland, they have done it gradually and now they are a top-six team.

“So the first game of the season was pleasing because we were going against a team who had finished top six, had won the Scottish Cup the previous season and had been in Europe and the result gave us a big bit of belief going in to the campaign.

“I think it has been a really good season for us.

“We have progressed a lot, we have managed to get third position, European football which is something we didn’t expect to get this season coming up from the Championship but it gives us the chance to build on over the summer and hopefully push on again next year.

“It is important to win every game at Tynecastle, from first to last but hopefully it will be a full house and we can send them away happy with their spirits high over the summer.”

Saints, however, are looking to win five out of five post-split matches, their most recent a 2-1 home victory over champions Celtic on Wednesday night.

And having lost 3-0 to Saints at Tynecastle in March, Neilson knows his side will have their work cut out to finish on a high.

“They are the flying at the moment, they are doing really well,” said the former Hearts defender.

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“They have got most of their players back and they are a team who know how to play football, they know how to win the game.

“It will be a difficult one because they turned us over the last time at Tynecastle.

“We were poor, we didn’t start the game well. St Johnstone had a game plan and stuck to it.”

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