Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson has launched a staunch defence of his players after admitting that he fears they are becoming tarred as a team of divers.
The Tynecastle club will attempt to have the yellow card meted out to striker Tony Watt for simulation revoked on Thursday after appealing against the punishment handed down by referee Craig Thomson during Saturday’s 3-1 win over Hamilton.
After reviewing footage of the first half incident involving Accies defender Shuan Want, Hearts are adamant the on loan Charlton marksman was fouled.
Hearts winger Jamie Walker has already served a retrospective two-game ban for diving after he was found guilty of simulation in a coming together with Kieran Tierney in an opening day Premiership defeat to Celtic.
Immediately after the game, Walker was branded a ‘cheat’ by Hoops captain Scott Brown.
But Neilson is keen to guard against what he feels is his team being unfairly stereotyped as divers, and insists their attacking style of play means they are likely to be involved in penalty box incidents.
Neilson said: “We need to get on top of this. Every time we go into the box and there’s contact, we’re getting tarred with diving, which is disappointing.
“We definitely feel it’s unfair. I think the referee has looked at the one on Saturday because Tony’s arms go up.
“There is definite contact because the boy (Want) swings and catches his foot. From our perspective, it’s a penalty. It’s not a dive.
“We’ve gone from being tagged as a big, physical team three weeks ago to now, where we’re apparently lightweight and go down easily.
“I think, when you’re winning games, people are always going to find something to use and have a nibble at you. The players understand that. They know it’s part of football.
“The way we play, especially at Tynecastle, we dominate a lot of possession. Because of that, we spend the majority of our time in and around the other team’s penalty box.
“Also, the types of players we have are guys who will go at people one-v-one and use real pace. There will be more contact in the box and more fouls given up in and around the box. That’s just the way it is.”
Neilson, whose side will leap to the Premiership summit for at least 24 hours if they beat St Johnstone on Saturday, has also dismissed any suggestion that Hearts condone players acting dishonestly in the box.
He added: “No, not at all. The players at Hearts are instructed to entertain the fans. We want them to go at opponents in one-v-one situations. If people are going to foul them, then it’s a foul. That’s it.”
Speaking to the Edinburgh Evening News, he added: “You don’t want to get to the stage in football where nobody wants to take anybody on. Then you won’t see any fouls or contact.
“Tynecastle is about entertaining people, and to entertain people you have to take opponents on. You need to run at players at pace and provide entertainment in one-v-one situations. Our players do that, which is exactly what we want them to do.
“We just have to stay with the players and keep them going. We’ll try to keep ourselves up near the top of the league. The longer we can do that, the better it will be for us.”