HEARTS handed debuts to all three of their marquee summer signings in Dublin as they kicked off their pre-season with a routine 2-0 win over Bohemian.
Scorers: Paterson (86), El Hassnaoui (89pen)
However the talk of the town in the Irish capital undoubtedly surrounded the prospect of further arrivals.
Thanks to the loose tongue of Nigerian international Juwon Oshaniwa, Jambos are already buoyed by the likelihood of a bona fide World Cup star joining the club. Neilson confirmed afterwards that the club is working around the clock to push through a deal for Oshaniwa. He said: “Hopefully we can get something done in the next few days. If we get him it would be fantastic because there has been a lot of hard work been put in by myself, Craig Levein, John Murray and Ann Budge.
“He is keen to come, I have spoken to him and we are desperate to get him so, hopefully, we can get something tied up.
“He knows the club and he’s keen to come here and make a name for himself.”
The selection of former Albanian under-21 cap Mergim Bajraktari at Dalymount Park was somewhat unexpected, with the 22-year-old joining up with Hearts on trial.
The Swiss-born midfielder has been most recently on the books of Stade Nyonnais in Switzerland’s third tier and has also trained with Hearts at their Riccarton base in Edinburgh prior to this camp.
Neilson added: “I thought he did okay and we will have another look at him at the weekend. I think he is a good player, but it is dependent of what we can do budget-wise.
“He definitely has qualities and we are having a serious look at him. He can play pretty much anywhere across he back four and midfield and we will keep an eye on him over the next few days.”
Such was the interest in those who may join, it threatened to pull focus from the trio who have signed – and were fielded from the start against their Irish Premier League challengers.
Blazej Augustyn anchored the back-line alongside Jordan McGhee, while the hulking figure of Juanma Delgado lead the line with Gavin Reilly.
However, the closest any of the debutants came to etching their name on the scoresheet was Juanma crashing a header against the bar in the first half.
Instead, it was left to Callum Paterson to net via an utter fluke in the closing stages, as his wayward cross looped in to the net, and a Soufian El Hassnaoui penalty to secure a deserved victory.
Neil Alexander almost endured an instantly forgettable start to his 2015-16 campaign, with thrashing an attempted clearance straight at Aaron Ashe. The former Scotland internationalist was fortunate to see the ball ricochet over the bar.
Better was to come for visitors 10 minutes later as Augustyn afforded Hearts fans a glimpse of what they can expect from their replacement for Danny Wilson, surging forward from defence and firing a ferocious drive just wide. A more conventional attacking threat, Sam Nicholson, illuminated a dull contest mid-way through the first half with a fine curling effort from 20 yards which forced a sprawling save from Lee Steacy. The Bohs keeper was beaten on half-hour mark, but had the woodwork to thank for parity being conserved, with Juanma’s point-blank header – following a delightful cross by young Liam Smith – crashing against the bar.
Hearts changed their entire team at the break, with the substitutes, who included first-team stars from last term such as Callum Paterson, Miguel Pallardo, Jamie Walker and Osman Sow handed a second-half run-out. Prince Buaben also entered the fray at the break, making his first appearance in four months, and Jamal Howlett-Mundle – in the guise of ‘trialist’ while Hearts wait for his international clearance – made his debut.
Within five minutes of the restart Soufian El Hassnaoui tried his luck from 20 yards after a neat backheel from Osman Sow, but the shot sailed over the bar.
Pressure finally told in bizarre fashion after 86 minute when Paterson’s skewed delivery from out wide clipped the underside of the bar and bounced over the line. And gloss was added to the scoreline with the final kick of the game when El Hassnaoui slotted home from the spot after Kevin McHattie had been felled.