Hearts were yesterday forced to shell out hundreds of pounds to train on Alloa’s plastic pitch.
Alloa chairman Mike Mulraney allowed the Championship leaders access to their Indodrill Stadium as long as they paid for use of the public facilities.
Hearts travel to Clackmannanshire on Saturday for their second test on an artificial surface in successive weeks following last weekend’s 3-0 win at Queen of the South.
With the synthetic grass in Alloa having already been branded “horrible” by Ally McCoist following Rangers’ recent 1-1 draw, and Hearts’ city rivals Hibs falling to a 2-1 loss there in August, Neilson is leaving no stone unturned. His players trained at the ground for 90 minutes yesterday, a privilege that Mulraney says cost them between £300 and £400.
He said: “Any team can come and train at our ground as long as they pay the rental fee. It’s open to anyone. Hearts came on Wednesday and in the past St Johnstone have used it when the weather has been bad. We’ve not had any teams come to train on it this year apart from Hearts.
“We feel as if we’re giving away no advantage as that many clubs use these kind of surfaces anyway. I can’t remember exactly what the rental fee was, it’s about £300, £400.”
Hearts, meanwhile, will make history on Saturday if they avoid defeat at Alloa.
They are on the verge of setting a new points record, following the opening quarter of the season, in the second tier since the division became a ten-team league in 1994. Seven wins and one draw have yielded an impressive 22 points, a figure that has not been achieved following the opening nine matches. The omens look good in the Tynecastle outfit’s bid to bounce straight back to the Premiership.
Partick Thistle, Hamilton, Falkirk and Dundee all reached that 22-point tally after playing every team once, and they all went on to clinch the title in 2013, 2008, 2003 and 1998 respectively.
Neilson, meanwhile, admits he could tinker with his team selection for the trip to Alloa.
Adam Eckersley and Jordan McGhee replaced Kevin McHattie and Callum Paterson in the full-back positions for the win at Palmerston Park.
Neilson said: “I’ve said all along we’ll pick a team that’s going to go and win the game. We did that last Saturday. I’ll have a look at it this week before we go to Alloa and I’ll pick a team. It probably won’t be the same team as last week. That’s just the way it is. I don’t mind changing a winning team at all. I speak to the boys all the time about it.
“On a Saturday, is the best team the one that starts the game or the one that finishes it? Everyone knows they have a part to play.”