ROBBIE Neilson has warned his Hearts players they will concede three goals to Zurich in their Europa League play-off match on Thursday night if they perform like they did in the first-half of their 4-1 rout of Dundee United.
Goals from Lawrence Shankland, Barrie McKay, Jorge Grant and Josh Ginnelly helped the Gorgie club to record an emphatic win over United at Tynecastle today and maintain their unbeaten start to the 2022/23 campaign.
However, Neilson revealed he was unimpressed with how his side, who took the lead after 43 seconds, acquitted themselves in the opening 45 minutes of the cinch Premiership match and has told his charges the Swiss champions will run riot in St Gallen if they play the same way.
“I was pleased with the result,” he said. “We started the game really well. But I thought in the first-half we never played anywhere near the levels we normally play at.
“We were trying to force the play, giving it away and not doing the things we’d spoken about previously. We changed it at half-time and managed to get settled in the game and do what we’re good at.
“They played with a diamond, we were 3-4-3 and in the first minute of the game we did exactly what we spoke about - get it wide, in behind, cross the ball and score a goal.
“Then for some reason the next 44 minutes we stopped doing it. We start trying to force it into the middle where they have four players. They win it back and counter attack and we start to lose control of the game.
“It wasn’t until we changed the shape and started getting it wide again that we took control. That was the annoying thing. We spoke at half-time about figuring out how to win the game and what brings success. If it’s successful we will keep doing it. Don’t try and force something else.
“We’re getting there. But I thought in the first-half we were pretty poor. If we do that on Thursday night we will be two or three goals down. We need to start the game better.”
Neilson admitted that Stephen Kingsley, who came on in the second-half to make his first appearance of the season, returning from injury has given Hearts a huge lift ahead of the Zurich double header.
“That’s massive having him back,” he said. “Stephen has been probably our best performer since he came here. To have him fit and ready for selection is great.”