Hearts: Neilson to carry on ringing the changes

HEARTS head coach Robbie Neilson insists he will continue to tailor his gameplan to suit the opposition, despite being forced to rip up his pre-match blueprint against Dundee at the weekend.

Hearts striker Gavin Reilly is hoping for a chance to establish a partnerhip with fellow summer signing Juanma. Picture: SNS
Hearts striker Gavin Reilly is hoping for a chance to establish a partnerhip with fellow summer signing Juanma. Picture: SNS
Hearts striker Gavin Reilly is hoping for a chance to establish a partnerhip with fellow summer signing Juanma. Picture: SNS

The Gorgie outfit began with skipper Alim Ozturk, a defender, in a diamond midfield at Dens Park in a bid to counteract the threats posed by their on-form hosts.

However, Neilson was required to carry out a hasty reshuffle at half-time after watching his unusual line-up coming off second best and struggling against a dominant Dark Blues side.

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The changes paid dividends, with Juanma’s second-half double ensuring the Jambos racked up a hat-trick of league and cup wins ahead of this evening’s visit of Motherwell.

With former Aberdeen and Scotland defender Willie Miller claiming the early formation was an indication Hearts had been “over-coached”, Neilson is adamant he will stick with his “horses for courses” approach to every single game.

He said: “You need to have different options and be able to change things. You can make subs in games but the best way to change it is to change the formation.

“We have a formation we prefer but there’s times in games when you need to change it.

“I don’t think you can ever be over-coached, to be honest. I don’t listen to what other people are saying, I just deal with what we’re doing here.

“Others can have their opinion and that’s up to them, but from my point of view the players have to be coached as much as possible.

“If we started in our usual formation against Dundee then we might have ended up 3-0 down. We started with a diamond and, while Dundee had a lot of the play, we had two clear-cut chances and could have gone in 2-1 up at half-time.

“People might say different things but you have to be coached. Every time the players are in here they want to be learning stuff.

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“Even when they sit in the dressing room they watch TV of stuff we’re working on, so it’s constant.

“It’s easy to come in and play five-a-sides all day, which the players might enjoy, but they won’t learn anything. They won’t get any better.”

Gavin Reilly has already learned plenty just from watching fellow striker Juanma in action. Now he wants the chance to partner Hearts’ new goal-scoring hero.

The Spaniard scored a goal on his Premiership debut against St Johnstone and a match-winning brace in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Dundee.

Reilly reckons his fellow summer signing, who began his career at Levante and played in Greece with Asteras Tripoli and Kalloni, has all the tools to become a massive hit for Hearts this season, and the former Queen of the South youngster is desperate for the opportunity to prove he can be the perfect foil for the new darling of the Tynecastle crowd.

Speaking ahead of tonight’s home meeting with Motherwell, Reilly said: “The big man’s doing brilliant. The skill for his second goal at the weekend was brilliant and you can see in training that he’s got something else.

“He’s played at a good level in Greek football, come over here and scored three goals in two games. Hopefully it can continue and we can keep winning games.

“He’s probably more clever than I’ve been used to. In Scottish football, it’s all guns blazing, everyone chasing the ball, but he’s a wee bit smarter. He knows when it’s the time to press and when it’s not. He’s got good skill and he’s a big guy who can hold the ball up.

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“It would be great to get up and play alongside the big man. He’s a big guy who could flick it on for me. He’s quick but he doesn’t run the channels all the time.

“I could utilise it if I was to run in behind and he was there holding the ball up, but we have other strikers in the team as well. We have a lot of combinations here and good strength in depth, which you need.”