Robbie Neilson’s young Hearts up for Pittodrie challenge

HEARTS boss Robbie Neilson concedes it will be like men against boys when his young Jambos take on Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Saturday.
Hearts' Robbie Neilson. Picture: Lisa FergusonHearts' Robbie Neilson. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Hearts' Robbie Neilson. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

But the Tynecastle manager is confident his talented recruits have the quality to beat the Dons and close in on second spot in the Ladbrokes Premiership, even if they lack in experience.

The last time the side’s met, Derek McInnes’ side left the Gorgie support stunned with a 3-0 raid.

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However, Neilson told HeartsTV: “We lost three bad goals in the first half and it killed the game a bit after that.

“But all in all there wasn’t much in the game football-wise. We just need to prepare for their pace and power this time.

“They have got a very experienced team. Derek has put together a strong squad of international players and guys who have played 300 or 400 games in the top flight.

“It’s something our young players don’t have at the moment but we hope we can fast-track them to the level where we can compete against teams like Aberdeen.

“It’s difficult, though, to substitute having played a couple of hundred games in the top division. We have guys who have only played 30 or 40 games in their career full-stop and even some of the foreign players we’ve brought in have only 10 to 15 games in Scotland under their belts.

“So it’s difficult to mimic what Aberdeen have but I believe we have the players who if they handle the game and play the kind of football we want to can definitely win on Saturday.”

Victory will see last season’s Championship winners move to within a point of the second-placed Reds, with a game in hand still to be played.

“It’s a huge game for us, first and foremost it’s a great game to be involved in for the club,” said Neilson.

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“We almost went out of business 19 months ago, we managed to get promoted last season and now we’re talking about going into a game which could see us [eventually] return to second place.

“So it’s great to be involved in these big games again, it’s a game we want to go and win and we believe we can do so.”

The Hearts boss was boosted this week by the news that Jamie Walker has signed a contract extension with the club.

The winger is still fighting his way back from knee trouble but has rejoined his team-mates for training and Neilson is pleased.

He said: “Jamie’s a very good player, he’s had a difficult period with injuries but we believe he’ll be a good player for us once he’s fit again.

“He’s back in training now, he obviously won’t make Aberdeen tomorrow but he’s recovering well.”