Hearts turn focus to beating Hibs as Robbie Neilson reveals 'quick pat on the back'
With his side 4-0 up by half-time against a well-beaten Dons side, and able to add a fifth goal just after an hour, the Tynecastle gaffer was able to shuffle his line-up, giving game time to the likes of Stephen Kingsley, Stephen Humphrys and newcomer Yutaro Oda, while also wrapping other assets in cotton wool for the remainder of the fixture.
“We are delighted with the result,” said Neilson. “We started well and got the goals at good times. It’s three points, that’s all that matters and it’s all about the derby now. They got a quick pat on the back and it’s on to Sunday now.”
A 5-0 romping that was aided by two VAR interventions, giving Hearts a penalty, which was converted by Lawrence Shankland, and chalking off a Marley Watkins effort late in proceedings, it was a clinical performance from the home side.
“Was that the best performance? I thought we played exceptionally well in the Zurich game, when we were on the front foot, aggressive and won the ball high up the pitch,” continued Neilson.
“I thought that was similar tonight and when you do that you get the crowd behind you. it doesn’t really mean anything, it’s just three points. They beat us up there and we have beat them here, so it’s even-stevens now. “
Pausing league business with a solid lead in third spot, Neilson knows that the mood could swing fairly significantly if they do not ensure Scottish Cup progress at Easter Road on Sunday. “At Hearts you are expected to win every game,” he said. “All eyes are on the derby now, it’s pivotal to the season because we want to get a result and kick on.”
And the possibility that Shankland could equal John Robertson’s tally of 20 goals for a season, a figure the striker who terrorised Hibs in derby encounters throughout his Gorgie career set down over 30 years ago, is not lost on Neilson. “Yeah, that would be nice if he could do that. Shanks has been brilliant for us, not just his goals but leading the line as well.”