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‘What a night they’re going to have!’: Robbie Neilson dedicates Hearts’ win over RFS Riga in the Conference League to the club’s traveling supporters… as he greets ‘outstanding’ centre-back Lewis Neilson
- Hearts impressed in the Conference League with a 2-0 win over RFS Riga
- Tynecastle’s side are second in their group, then face Fiorentina
- Robbie Neilson praised the club’s fans for spending their money on the trip
- Lewis Neilson, 19, impressed in defense after replacing Craig Halkett early on
- The Hearts boss also praised Josh Ginnelly, Cammy Devlin and Craig Gordon
Robbie Neilson urged Hearts fans to enjoy the celebration after seeing their heroes storm to second place in Group A of the Europa Conference League.
The Tynecastle side had racked up a run of one win in seven games before Thursday night’s 2-0 win against RFS Riga thanks to a penalty from Lawrence Shankland and an injury time goal from substitute Alan Forrest.
Hearts now have a lead over Fiorentina, who lost 3-0 to Istanbul Basaksehir in Turkey after drawing at home with Riga in their opening game.
Robbie Neilson urged Hearts fans to enjoy the party after watching their side beat RFS 2-0
Neilson declined to take the lead for a double-header against the Serie A giants, but he hopes this fine result in the Latvian capital will help Hearts learn that they belong at this level.
“I’m very happy, first and foremost for the fans,” he said. What an evening they will have. They supported this cub to the extreme. They put their money into it every month.
“It’s expensive to get here at this time of year, but hopefully we’ve paid them back a bit. I think we can use this performance and this result as a springboard for the rest of the season.
“We’ve been through a sticky period lately, but we’ve also had some injuries and it was hard to get that consistency.
The Hearts boss praised supporters for spending their money on the trip to Latvia
Lawrence Shankland made the opening goal from the penalty spot just before half time
“We knew we were coming here to play against a very good team, who tied with Fiorentina last week.
‘Let’s not get too carried away just yet. Fiorentina is not a bad side. It will be another very tough game, but I hope tonight gives the players the confidence that they can play and win games at this level.”
Hearts saw their injury problems resurface when defender Craig Halkett limped early on with a recurrence of the hamstring problems that kept him sidelined for a month.
But Neilson was delighted with how 19-year-old Lewis Neilson handled the threat from importing Riga hazard Andrej Ilic.
Alan Forrest is embraced by Cameron Devlin after taking the win for Hearts late
The Scottish side are second in their Conference League group and then face Fiorentina
The Hearts boss also named Josh Ginnelly, Cammy Devlin and Craig Gordon for praise in the wake of this fine result.
“It’s always a risk to put a player back in after an injury, but hopefully Craig’s injury isn’t as bad as last time. He felt a small sting in the same spot and thought it was better to get off.
“He won’t make it to Motherwell at Fir Park on Sunday, but then we’ll have a few weeks off and I hope he comes back after that.
“But Lewis Neilson was excellent. For a 19 year old boy it was great to play Europe Conference League football against a really good team. Physically he did well and also on the ball he was excellent. In time he will become a top player.
Goalkeeper Craig Gordon was singled out for praise by Neilson after keeping a clean sheet
“I also thought this was one of Josh Ginnelly’s best games for us and Cammy Devlin was excellent. He got his first call-up in Australia earlier this week and that gave him a big boost.
“He picked the right pass at the right time for Alan Forrest’s goal, which was very important for us. And Craig Gordon is just a top, top keeper. He just produces save after save for us.
“When you’re a defensive unit and you have someone like Craig Gordon behind you, you know it takes something very special to beat you.
“We could have scored a few more goals tonight, but so could Riga. But I’m just really happy to win.’