Neilson comfortable with 'expectation' in battle for third place

The Hearts boss believes his side are in a position others would envy.

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson comfortable with ‘expectation’ in battle for third place SNS Group

Hearts boss Robbie Neilson accepts there is expectation on his side to maintain their grip on third place in the Premiership but is happy with his club’s lead over Hibs and Aberdeen.

Three defeats in the last four league games has seen the Tynecastle side suffer a dip in form ahead of a crucial part of the season but Hearts remain four points ahead of the Dons and five ahead of rivals Hibernian.

That prompted Neilson to call for a little perspective in assessing their position, with the manager admitting his disappointment at defeat to Aberdeen last time out but feeling positive as he prepares for the trip to Kilmarnock.

“We would like to have more but I think if you asked any team outwith Rangers and Celtic, they would want to be in our position,” Neilson said.

“We have nine games to go to try to secure that and it starts on Saturday.

“There’s expectation on Hibs, expectation on Aberdeen as well. Everyone is fighting for that third place.

“We are trying to fight to be higher than that, that’s the objective.

“There is expectation but it is the same as every club.”

Neilson will be without midfielder Cammy Devlin for the clash with Kilmarnock after the player suffered concussion on international duty. The club’s other Australian players will return on Friday but should be ready to face Killie in what Neilson believes will be a real challenge against a team battling to get free of relegation .

“We expect it to be a hard, physical, demanding game,” he said.

“They are very good at set-plays. If you look at their stats, over 50 per cent of their goals come from set-plays so you know you have to be organised in those situations.

 “The way the league is now, every game is competitive.

“You have a group fighting for survival. You have a group fighting to get into the top six, a group fighting to stay in the top six, a group fighting for Europe.

“So every game at this moment, especially as it comes down to the last games, it is all important.”

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