Robbie Neilson knows St Johnstone have head start

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson has underlined the importance of executing the perfect pre-season after acknowledging that St Johnstone have been handed a head start thanks to their European commitments.

Robbie Neilson: First friendly. Picture: SNS

Hearts play their first friendly tonight when they take on Irish Premier League outfit Bohemian at Dalymount Park as they step up preparations for their Premiership opener against Saints on 2 August.

Neilson is acutely aware that St Johnstone, who face Alashkert in the Europa League first qualifying round tomorrow night, could have four competitive matches under their belt by the time the sides meet on league duty. It has made the coming weeks all the more important as Hearts aim to hit the ground running following their promotion.

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“It’s going to be difficult, they are well into their season and are a good side,” said Neilson ahead of the visit to Bohs. “These games are always difficult because they are desperate to beat you. That’s exactly what you want – it’s a good start for the boys.

“Juanma, Gavin Reilly and Blazej [Augustyn] have come in so we are looking to get them into games right away. St Johnstone could potentially have played four competitive games before they face us so it is important we get things right.”

St Johnstone boss Tommy Wright insists he will not make an excuse out of his side’s early start to the season if they crash against Alashkert.

They face a 3,000-mile outward journey ahead of the first leg in the Armenian capital Yerevan but Wright said: “I think it’s weak and it’s weak people who use that as an excuse. If we lose it won’t be because of [our early start]. But we’re not thinking about losing. We’re going there to win.”