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Neilson rued lack of fans as Hearts beat Ross County

The Hearts boss felt a home crowd could have helped his side through a nervy finish.

Neilson rued lack of fans as Hearts beat Ross County SNS Group

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson admits the lack of supporters played its part as his team faced a nervy ending to their 2-1 Boxing Day victory over Ross County.

The hosts came flying out of the blocks at an empty Tynecastle – where Hearts opted not to open the doors to a reduced 500 crowd for logistical reasons – and opened the scoring in the fourth minute through Michael Smith.

Neilson’s side continued to create a series of good chances and John Souttar even struck the frame of the goal either side of Ben Woodburn hitting the second with a deflected drive in the 42nd minute.

However, County improved after the break and were aided by a slackness creeping into Hearts’ play.

And Hearts had to endure an uncomfortable ending when Jordan White scored in the 72nd minute.

Neilson said: “I thought in the first half we played really well and should have been up by more but when it’s 2-0, I know it’s a cliche, the next goal is always the most important.

“We didn’t get it, Ross County did and it became a bit edgy at the end.

“It was about getting the three points and we knew that would be difficult with no fans here.

“It was a case of trying to bring that energy.

“I’m sure fans sitting in the house, watching it on their laptops or the TV, that second half will have been a bit of a drag.

“Whereas when they are here, there’s intensity, there’s enjoyment.”

Neilson, meanwhile, played down a heated exchange between team-mates Souttar and Taylor Moore during a nervy ending to the game.

He added: “I don’t mind that, to be honest with you. It shows that it means something.

“We’re two or three minutes into injury time, there’s a set-play, somebody doesn’t pick up.

“Once you come into the dressing room it’s done and dusted, we move on.”

County manager Malky Mackay, meanwhile, admits he thought his team’s second-half performance merited them taking a point.

He said: “It was a tale of two halves.

“I don’t think we can allow a team as good as Hearts to start like that and us not to start the way we normally would.

“In the second half we ended up with 14 chances to three, and how we never scored at the end I’ll never know.

“So we could have got a point, should have got a point. That said, Hearts could have been out of sight at half-time.

“We’ve got to make sure we start against top teams way better than we did.”