Hearts boss encouraged following debuts and explains why Ayr’s pitch did not suit Gary Mackay-Steven

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Hearts manager Robbie Neilson insists newcomers Aaron McEneff and Gervane Kastaneer demonstrated that they can become key players following their debuts.

Neilson is also adamant there is more to come from January recruits Gary Mackay-Steven and Armand Gnanduillet.

Midfielder McEneff, a £175,000 recruit from Shamrock Rovers, and winger Kastaneer, who joined on loan from Coventry, both got run outs as substitutes in Friday’s hard-fought 1-0 victory at Ayr United.

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Their maiden appearances came just four days after they made deadline day moves.

And Neilson, whose side travel to Queen of the South this Friday, was hugely encouraged by their impact in a game won by Liam Boyce’s second half penalty.

He said: “I was delighted with them, I thought Aaron coming in gave us energy and quality in that ten position on a difficult pitch.

“You can see Gervane’s power and pace, even on a tough surface where it’s difficult to go at people and use your sprinting ability.

“He still got down the line a few times, he still used his strength so I think there is a lot more to come from him.”

Former Aberdeen winger Mackay-Steven and towering forward Gnanduillet, who both joined earlier in the transfer window, were the players to make way for the debutants.

Neilson blamed a poor Somerset Park pitch for Mackay-Steven having a relatively quiet evening, while Frenchman Gnanduillet also struggled to make an impact in the final third.

Neilson, speaking to Hearts TV, added: “I felt a bit for Gary on Friday because the surface is so bad and Gary is a very technical player and he gets at people.

“When you’re trying to get at people and the ball is bobbling about it’s really difficult to put your stamp on it. 

“Gnanduillet is still getting his fitness, we spoke about that when he came in, hence the reason he made sub appearances recently.

“It was great to get a start for him but I do think there’s more to come fitness wise.”