BY DARREN JOHNSTONE @CCP_Sport
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson insists the Tynecastle outfit have Aberdeen firmly in their sights following Sunday’s pulsating draw with Celtic.
The Gorgie club are nine points behind the second place Dons ahead of tomorrow’s visit of Dundee United and are desperate to close that gap.
Securing a top-six finish in their first season back in the Premiership remains Hearts’ priority but after being left disappointed that his side did not take all three points against the Hoops in the weekend’s 2-2 draw with the champions, Neilson admits they should be targeting at least a runners-up spot.
Neilson said: “Aberdeen is the aim, ultimately Celtic is the aim in a year or two years time but at the moment we’re progressing well.
“The aim has always been top six but if we can play the way we can then we definitely have an opportunity to put pressure on Aberdeen.
“Whether we do that or not is a different thing but we would like to try and aim for that.
“A few weeks ago we were sitting in second position, we dropped points but we need to get back in there again.
“We’ve got a game in hand (against Inverness) that would bring us within touching distance of them and then we can aim for them again.
“The season changes and the league landscape changes quite quickly in this league, there’s so many team that can beat each other.
“You saw on Saturday, Aberdeen are 2-2 with Inverness and they’re favourites.”
Hearts twice came from behind to secure a share of the spoils at a sold-out Tynecastle at the weekend, with Sam Nicholson and Osman Sow cancelling out Nir Bitton and Tom Rogic efforts.
Swedish marksman Sow’s effort was the pick of the bunch, with his stunning left-footed strike hitting the top corner following a Prince Buaben lay-off from a free-kick.
Hearts have begun contract talks with the 25-year-old but Neilson is bracing himself for interest in the player ahead of next month’s January transfer window opening.
Neilson added: “That’s another goal of the season contender. He’s got two now.
“It was fantastic, he’s got unbelievable ability.
“He’s a top player and one that we would like to keep a hold of but I know there will be a lot of interest in Osman, he’s been fantastic for us this season.
“I was also pleased with the spirit of the team, going behind it would have been easy to fold but we stood firm after the first goal to get an equaliser then we did it again.”
Neilson also paid tribute to the home fans for inspiring the players against Celtic.
He added: “The fans are phenomenal. Every game this season, every game last season is sell-out.
“It just shows the spirit of the club, it’s a great place to work at and it’s a great place to be involved at.
“They know that the players will give 100 per cent, a lot of these people dip into their pocket every month, money they can’t afford, and the players can give back energy and passion and work-rate, and that’s what they did on Sunday against Celtic.”