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Robbie Neilson hopes a period of rest will benefit Hearts

The Tynecastle side have had a rare week without a midweek match.

Robbie Neilson hopes a period of rest will benefit Hearts SNS Group

Robbie Neilson is hoping Hearts will return to action refreshed after having had a full week without a match for the first time since the winter break.

Neilson believes an intense run of eight games in three and a half weeks has taken an edge off his team’s play in recent outings.

Hearts face the cinch Premiership’s bottom side St Johnstone in Perth on Saturday, and Neilson is pleased that his team can go into it without being plagued by the exertions of a midweek match.

“It’s been a while since we had a full week because we’ve had four midweeks on the bounce so it’s been good to get a wee bit of preparation and proper training because previously it’s just been game-recover-game-recover,” he said.

“It’s been good to have time on the training pitch to work on how we want to play, all the kind of basic principles.

“We had about a week to 10 days to hammer that home when we came back towards the end of the winter break but as soon as you get into the games, it’s difficult to do anything.

“I think that run of games has taken a toll on all the teams apart from Rangers and Celtic who have a much bigger squad than anyone else.

“They can rotate five or six players a game and still bring in international players. If you look at the form of every team, probably apart from St Mirren, we’ve probably all dipped a bit.”

Despite not winning any of their last three league games, Hearts have still managed to pull further clear of the chasing pack in the battle for third place since returning from their winter break on January 18.

Neilson hopes his team can rediscover the consistency that allowed them to get into such a commanding position.

“We went into the winter break with a five-point gap and we’ve come out of this recent run of games with a 10-point gap and into the quarter-final of the Scottish Cup,” he pointed out.

“We need to try and push on again and get back to the form we showed at the start of the season.

“I don’t think we’re far off it. In the first half of the last couple of games we did very well but we’ve not got the goals to take us clear and it’s made the second half a bit more difficult.

“It was similar at the start of the season when we played really well but we took our chances and killed the game whereas in these recent games we’ve probably not taken our chances.”