Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson insists Celtic performance is the benchmark



Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson insists Sunday’s performance against Celtic is the benchmark for the rest of the season, despite being left empty-handed against the Hoops.

The Tynecastle club went down 2-1 to the reigning Premiership champions in a game full of incident after James Forrest and Scott Sinclair strikes sandwiched Jamie Walker’s controversial penalty.

Even though Hearts started the league campaign with a defeat, Neilson was pleased that his side was able to go toe-to-toe with Brendan Rodgers’ team and reckons they will have no problems fulfilling their own expectations this term if they manage to churn out similar displays.

robbieneilsonNeilson, whose side travel to St Johnstone in Betfred Cup second round action tomorrow ahead of Saturday’s league clash at Aberdeen, said: “We wanted to win the game but we wanted a performance and I thought the performance was great. If we take our chances, we’ll win more games than we lose.

“Sunday was a great game and I think the fans enjoyed it, they backed us to the hilt.

“They saw the passion of the players, the movement of the ball and the commitment so we have to use this as a bar for the rest of the season.

“Every time we play at Tynecastle we should be putting in a performance like that.

“We ran Celtic very close and you could see with their celebrations at the end, they knew they were in a game. On another day we could have won it, it shows how far we’ve come.

“Even last year, we drew here and we drew at Parkhead but in those draws we were kind of hanging on a wee bit and we allowed Celtic to dominate possession.

“But on Sunday there was no domination at all from them, they were kicking it out the park and shanking it everywhere and it meant we were on the front foot the whole time.”

Tony Watt

Neilson, meanwhile, insists Tony Watts’s 61 minutes of game time on Sunday will stand the on loan Charlton forward in good stead after he made his first competitive outing in four months.

Despite the former Celtic marksman heading wide a great first half chance, Neilson was pleased with the Scotland internationalist’s contribution.

Neilson added: “He was desperate to stay on but we decided to give him an hour before the game because he had a problem with his groin last season and he’s just coming back.

“Although he felt great, I was a little bit worried that he’d push himself too far and nick it again so we took him off.

“Hopefully in the next week or two we can build him up to 90 minutes.

“He’s got a spark and we’ve kind of missed that, we’ve only really got him and Walker that can give us that in the middle of the park.

“We’ve got some really good wide players but in that central area it gives us something different. It’s a case of trying to get him fit as quick as we can.”