'Challenging for titles' - Why Robbie Neilson isn't satisfied with Hearts' season as key player set to return

Kye Rowles is set to return to the Hearts starting XI as Robbie Neilson vowed to field his strongest team against St Johnstone ahead of a tough run of fixtures.

The Australian centre-back has recovered from a broken toe and is now "100 per cent fit”. He watched on from the bench during the team's last outing, a 2-0 loss to Motherwell, where his presence was sorely missed. “He had a broken toe and we basically tried to nurse it to this two-week break," Neilson said. “Now he's back to normal and there shouldn't be any issues at all.”

The visit of Saints will be followed by a double-header against Celtic in the Premiership and Scottish Cup, before trips to Aberdeen and Kilmarnock. Neilson rejected the idea the game takes on extra significance due to his belief Hearts have to win all their games at home, no matter the situation. There is also a desire to bounce back after that defeat at Fir Park.

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"I thought we were too possession-based, we were passing too much, we were not aggressive enough and we showed the players that," Neilson said. “Our position was too deep. There are these wee aspects we need to get better at but we also have to look at what we've done and get back to that. For me it is to be a bit more direct with our play, stretching teams. We are at our best when we do that and we have a threat in behind and the threat in the pocket. I thought the Motherwell game we were constantly coming to feet.”

He added: “Any game at Tynecastle you have to win it, doesn't matter who you are playing next, you need to win the game. Coming off the back of a defeat, you've got to win the next game. We're not thinking about Celtic or Aberdeen, it's about making sure we get the result tomorrow so it will be the strongest team. Once we deal with that it will be onto the next one.”

‘Challenging for titles’

Currently sitting third with a five-point lead, Hearts are one point worse off compared to this time last season. Not something Neilson, who revealed he splits the league campaign into three lots of 11 before the split with points targets for each one, is satisfied with. "Probably not,” was the answer when asked if he would have taken the current situation if offered earlier in the campaign. “Start of the season you want to win a league, don't you? When you come into the start of the season you want to win every game, you want to be at the top end of the league, challenging for titles.

"Having a European campaign, a lot of games to play, dealing with that, dealing with a lot of injuries as well, we are in a decent position but there is still a lot, a lot of work to do. We split it into thirds; 11, 11, 11 then once we get into the split it is a little different because we are playing the top end teams. We have targets, we've hit one this season, midway through the third one. We are not far off, not where we hoped to be, but expected to be. Still a long way to go.”



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