Hearts: Neilson eyes April for Rangers rematch

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HEARTS’ match against Rangers, called off after 25 minutes last week because of heavy snow, could be played on 4 April according to Robbie Neilson.

The Tynecastle head coach insisted yesterday that he did not mind when the match went ahead, but said that the weekend of the Petrofac Cup final between Livingston and Alloa appeared suitable. Hearts were due to play Livingston that weekend and have now arranged the game for next month. Rangers were scheduled to play Alloa, so they too are free.

Robbie Neilson's side take on Falkirk tomorrow with a 13'point lead in the Championship.'Picture: SNS

Robbie Neilson's side take on Falkirk tomorrow with a 13'point lead in the Championship.'Picture: SNS

“I’ve not heard of another date for the Rangers game, but I’d heard we were looking at later on in the year,” Neilson said yesterday after his squad trained on the artificial surface at Spartans as their own Riccarton pitch was frozen. “I’m not bothered, to be honest with you. I’ll take it whenever.

“I think there’s a date at the start of April when both teams are free. I think it’s the Petrofac Training Cup final and we’re both due to be playing Livingston and Alloa, so that’s a possibility, but it has to be agreed.

“I’m quite happy to wait until then. A Saturday game would be better for both teams and better for Rangers financially. They would get a bigger crowd, I would think, on a Saturday.”

Hearts, 13 points ahead of the Glasgow club, host Falkirk tomorrow with virtually their full squad available. Soufian El Hassnaoui and Kevin McHattie are the two still to make their return, with the Dutch striker having taken some part in training yesterday and the full-back scheduled to return to training within the next fortnight.


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Having had his resources stretched to the limit not too long ago, Neilson now has an embarrassment of riches, particularly up front, where Dale Carrick and Osman Sow are again available. “We’ve got six guys vying for a maximum of two places, and sometimes we only play with one [up front],” Neilson said.

“It gives me great options. I can change it. If we’re playing two I can swap the two straight away and pick someone else, depending on what we want to do. It’s a great thing to have.

“It’s part and parcel of football nowadays at a big club, that you just need to wait for your chance. And, even when you get in and you get your chance and you take it, you might find the following week it’s a different game you play and you come back out again.

“For a few weeks it was James Keatings and that was it. He was the only option we had. That was the reason we brought Gary Oliver back.

“I thought he did really well for us, but now we’ve got options and James understands that. It can be frustrating at times, but it’s a case of just getting on with it. The higher up you play probably the less games you’ll play because of the size of squads.”

Midfielders Jason Holt and Scott Robinson and defender Brad McKay are all expected to leave Hearts in search of more regular football, but Neilson is in no hurry to lose them and would prefer them to delay their departures until the end of the season.

“I don’t foresee them leaving but, again, it’s depending on what offers we’ve got and how they feel about it and how we feel about it,” Neilson said when asked if any of the three could go during the present transfer window “It’s important that we keep a strong squad and we keep a togetherness about it, but it’s also important that boys’ careers progress. If there’s something there that they feel is better for them or if they’re going to go and play games, and we feel it’s something we can help them with, then it might happen. But at the moment, I don’t see anything happening.

“I would be delighted to keep them until the end of the season. It keeps us strong.

“Scott Robinson, Jason Holt and Brad McKay are three guys I know I can put them in and they’ll do a good job for us. They train really well, they’ve got a good attitude, so I don’t have any issues with that at all.”