Robbie Neilson has Hibs in his sights as Hearts boss sets pre-World Cup target

Hearts have been set the target of claiming third place by the time the Premiership goes into World Cup hibernation.

Delighted to see his team battle to record just their second back to back wins of the season, Tynecastle boss Robbie Neilson saw his team move from ninth to sixth in the table, just three points behind capital rivals Hibs, who are currently tucked in behind Celtic and then Rangers.

Hearts secured a 2-1 win over Ross County, who slipped to the foot of the Premiership as a consequence, thanks to goals from Lawrence Shankland and Andy Halliday.

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The Gorgie side did so despite more issues with injury and illness and Neilson praised their grit.

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson at full-time after the 2-1 win over Ross County in Dingwall. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

“We have had a lot more games than everyone else and we have had to travel all over Europe. We travel on Wednesday, play Thursday night and then come back to Tynecastle to play again on Sunday, so you are asking the players to go again and again and there are a number who are carrying knocks. If we had a full squad then they wouldn't have played. But they are out there putting their body on the line.

“We have every senior, professional player out there and we have thrown in a few of the young boys. But our objective is to get into that third position ahead of the World Cup and if we can do that then it will be absolutely outstanding because at that point we will start to get others back. It will only be [Beni] Baningime and [Liam] Boyce with their cruciates. The others should all be back.”

Unwilling to compromise their ambitions, having claimed third as their own last term, he would like to reclaim that berth sooner rather than later.

“It is where we want to be. We have another game next week and depending on what happens at Pittodrie on Friday night [when Hibs play Aberdeen] we could potentially have the chance to move back into third.

“Aberdeen and Hibs are good teams this year but our objective is to get third place. We want European football and if we want that then we have to balance that with playing in Europe. The league is still so tight.

“With all these games and injuries it is about getting to the World Cup break in the best place possible. Then I would expect us to kick on.”

First they have one last Europa Conference League group match, when they travel to Turkey to face Istanbul Basaksehir, on Thursday.

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Although he is set on playing his strongest possible team, well aware of the ability of their hosts, who swept them aside 4-0 at Tynecastle earlier in the campaign, Neilson is unwilling to take too many risks with players who will be vital to their league ambitions.

“Yeah they’re a tough team to play against and that is why we have to go full strength. If we don’t then we are in trouble. We will see who is available.

“Peter Haring should be back. His concussion should be ok and then, to be honest, there are a few of them back running but we will see if it is worth the risk or not. Hopefully we will see more back for Sunday.”

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