Ellis Simms’ Hearts debut praised as Robbie Neilson makes feelings clear over offside goals

Robbie Neilson praised newcomer Ellis Simms after the Everton loanee produced a promising debut just hours after he completed his transfer.

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson shows his frustration during the 2-1 defeat to Celtic at Tynecastle Park. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson shows his frustration during the 2-1 defeat to Celtic at Tynecastle Park. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Thrown on for the second 45 minutes against Celtic, he was a massive factor in the Gorgie side’s improved performance as they came close to taking something from the match.

“Simms coming in and getting game time, you can see he's going to be a top player for us,” Nielson said. “The plan was to get him half an hour so getting 45 minutes out of him was great. I was very impressed with him. We knew what he could do but it was just a case of whether he could do it for us? Tonight was a very good marker.”

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Left with “a tinge of disappointment” after his men failed to complete a fightback against Ange Postecoglou’s side, the Tynecastle boss lamented missed opportunities and said that when facing the top teams in the league, they have to be more clinical.

As well as chances in open play, having endured a spell on the ropes, his side squandered a penalty opportunity that would have leveled the scoreline with nearly 20 minutes remaining. Despite sending Celtic keeper Joe Hart the wrong way, Liam Boyce’s spot kick came back off the inside of the post and try as they might, the Gorgie side could not find any other way past the Celtic rearguard.

“When you get chances you have to take them and we had a few, but it wasn’t to be tonight,” the Hearts gaffer admitted.

“I thought we started the game very well but Celtic are a very good team - and we allowed them to be a good team up to half-time. At that point we are 2-0 down and chasing it.

“The second half was pleasing but I thought the first half could be better.

“We changed the shape a wee bit and personnel which always helps and we spoke about getting closer, getting the defensive and midfield lines up which allows us to put more pressure on them.

“In the first half we dropped and dropped and allowed them to control the game.”

Annoyed that Celtic’s second goal was allowed to stand despite being offside, there was an element of redressing the imbalance as the flag also stayed down when Boyce reduced the deficit.

“The ref did alright but the linesman let him down,” ventured Neilson. “The Celtic goal and our goal are two poor decisions. You get decisions like that every week. For me, it's a clear-cut one. He's got to see it. There's nobody in between him and the Celtic player. We're all for VAR and the sooner it happens, the better.”

While popular midfielder Beni Baningame made his return from injury, defenders Michael Smith - back spasm - and Craig Halkett - sore hamstring - had to go off but Neilson is hopeful both can return in time for Saturday’s head to head with Motherwell.

“Beni is massive for us. We've really missed him. Although we've picked up results, he allows us to control games.

“[Craig’s] hamstring is sore so we’ll see how he is in the morning. It’s just a tight hamstring so we’ll see how it settles down.

“But, Taylor Moore will train tomorrow so if Halks is struggling, he can go straight in. Michael’s was a back spasm. But he has had them before and it is usually fine within a couple of days.”

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