BY IAIN COLLIN –[email protected]_sport
ROBBIE Neilson has backed Tony Watt to hit the goals trail for Hearts after the former Celtic striker played a full game for the first time in nearly seven months at the weekend.
The 22-year-old started just his second match for the Tynecastle side in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Aberdeen and could have snatched victory and his first goal for his new club when he blazed over with just three minutes remaining.
The Scotland cap has been nursed back to fitness since injuring his groin on April 2 and completed his first full 90 minutes since January 23.
And, despite the late miss at Pittodrie, Neilson is convinced the on-loan Charlton Athletic marksman will come good.
He said: “It was great ball in to him from Conor (Sammon) and then he does well to create space, but he’s just off balance when he hits it.
“You can see the spark he gives us. He’s something different, he’s got great quality.
“I think we are still to see the best of him. When we do that, I’m sure he’ll score loads of goals.”
Though disappointed to have drawn a blank at one end, Neilson was delighted with his side’s clean sheet at the other.
The Hearts head coach had condemned his defence in last Wednesday’s 3-2 defeat to St Johnstone in the Betfred Cup and reacted by dropping skipper Alim Ozturk to the bench against Aberdeen.
However, with John Souttar admitting his manager’s criticism had made him step up his performance against the Dons, Neilson was happier with Hearts’ rearguard action at Pittodrie.
He added on Hearts TV: “The key for the defence is to stop people scoring goals. That’s what they should do, first and foremost – the back four is there to stop people scoring.
“They didn’t manage to do that on Wednesday night against St Johnstone, but they managed to do that on Saturday.”