With the latest Covid restrictions in place for the final round of fixtures before top tier teams go into their winter break, his Hearts side defeated Ross County but having bossed the first half, his men were forced to hang on at the end, with Nielson adamant that the empty stands had played their part in that.
“Usually, the crowd roars and everyone gets going but we ran out there and it was flat as a pancake so the players had to bring the energy. Thankfully, they managed to do that but it is almost impossible to do that throughout the whole game without the fans beside you.
“We had it for 18 months so we knew. There’s no intensity to the place so it is about finding ways to win games. We knew the game would peter out eventually, it’s only natural.”
The club voted for a premature start to the winter break in the hope that when they return to action in mid January the crowd limitations will have been lifted, and although he had been loath to halt proceedings the closed-door game against County prompted an opinion change.
“It is quite deflating for everyone because we had it all last year and we thought that we had got through it all, we had the fans back but then we had today’s game. Looking at it today, I was probably pleased about the [postponement of the] two games that should have been coming up. Originally I would have liked to play them but we need the fans back here as soon as we can. “Ideally, you have fans here because that’s not really enjoyable, is it?
“I thought in the first half we played really well and should have been up by more but when it’s 2-0 the next goal is always the most important. We didn't get it, Ross County did and it became a bit edgy at the end. But it was about getting the three points and we knew that would be difficult with no fans here.”