Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson insists defence can get even better

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BY DARREN JOHNSTONE @CCP_Sport

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson has watched his side keep the ball out of their net for 371 minutes of league action  – and insists the defence can get even better.

The Tynecastle outfit have kept clean sheets in their recent four game winning run against Hamilton, Partick Thistle, Ross County and Dundee United.

That sequence of matches sandwiches a 2-0 League Cup loss to Celtic but they have not conceded a Premiership goal since Conrad Balatoni struck eleven minutes from time to secure a draw for Kilmarnock on October 3.

Robbie Neilson at Preston
Hearts have kept four successive clean sheets

 

A multi-national rearguard that includes Nigerian Juwon Oshaniwa, Brazilian Igor Rossi and Pole Blazej Augustyn have all featured in that run alongside homegrown players Callum Paterson and Jordan McGhee.

And with captain Alim Ozturk working his way back to fitness following a hernia operation, Neilson expects his defence to go from strength to strength.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s visit of Dundee, he said: “It’s pleasing for the back four. We’re still coming together and we’re still working everyday we’re in trying to get a feeling between each other.

“There were times against Hamilton when there were two of them going for the ball and because the communication is not great, they do the wrong things.

“It’s still developing but they’re getting better and another clean sheet will always help the confidence.”

Neilson, meanwhile, admits he is considering handing highly-rated Canadian youngster Dario Zanatta his full debut this weekend with striker Juanma Delgado serving a one-match suspension.

The versatile 18-year-old, who joined from Vancouver Whitecaps during the summer, made his first Hearts appearance from the bench in the victory at Thistle and was recently called up to the Canada Under-20 squad.

Neilson described the teenager as a ‘huge talent’ after the Firhill clash and admits he is in contention to step in for Delgado against Dundee with Soufian El Hassnaoui still not fit.

Neilson added: “Juanma is out so it will give someone an opportunity to come in, I’ve got some decent players that have been waiting for a chance to come in and do well and I’m sure they will.

“We’ve got Gavin Reilly and Osman Sow as the recognised strikers and there’s Zanatta, who has been away with his national team.

“He has been doing really well for us, he is an option up there too.

“We’re looking forward to getting back into it and getting going again.”

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