Hearts 1/2 season review as Robbie Neilson’s side fire up and take a solid lead in battle for third place

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They started off in the best possible way with a victory over Celtic, and Hearts barely gave up their pursuit of third place.

Robbie Neilson has ensured his side consistently deliver results, especially at home.

They have only lost once at Tynecastle, and that was against Rangers in a game they arguably deserved far more.

Away form has also improved in recent seasons, with early wins at Dundee United and St Mirren being game changers.

An 11-game undefeated start sparked speculation over whether they could challenge for the title, but it was still optimistic in the extreme.

This third place has always been the most realistic objective, especially just after the championship.

The Jambos have a solid lead in the battle for the ‘best of the rest’, but with Motherwell just five points behind, they still can’t afford to slow down.

Hibs, Aberdeen and even Dundee United are all still hoping to have their say.

Here has Soccer Scotland, we took a look at the Jam Tarts season so far and gave them a newsletter.

League performance



Hearts turned in some top league displays

It is extremely difficult to argue too much with performances in the league.

The third is as high as you can reasonably expect Hearts to go right now, though fans are still dreaming a bit more about it.

This is, of course, where they’ve been for a while now, and they’ve built a pretty comfy cushion.

It is by no means certain that they will hang on, but if they show the same level of consistency, they will be difficult to catch.

The aforementioned undefeated start was the perfect answer to doubters of Robbie Neilson and showed the level to which he can take this Hearts team.

They turned Tynecastle into a fortress and those home points were crucial to their progress to third place. They also have the best away record apart from Celtic and Rangers.

The fans and the manager always want it to be better. Robbie Neilson spoke this week about some games that they should have picked up all three points when they only won one.

He named Hibs and Aberdeen home, but there was also Dundee home and away like Ross County and St Johnstone.

Overall though, the half-season was successful and if they stay where they are at the end, they will be happy.

League Cup performance



Hearts were knocked out of the league cup by Celtic
Hearts were knocked out of the league cup by Celtic

There’s no denying that a club like Hearts should aim for the semi-finals and finals with some regularity.

But when you draw Celtic at Parkhead in the last 16 and end up getting dumped, it’s hard to be too critical.

Fans were left in dismay as the first half approached in which the Hoops bombarded Craig Gordon’s goal and could have been well over 2-0 at halftime.

The visitors were passive and gave them far too much space to attack.

They punched a much better second half and only lost by one in a five-goal thriller.

Of course, the Jambos could have avoided such a tricky tie in the first place had they made sure they were seeded.

Having topped their group, they went into the final match needing to win by two goals and were frustrated by a brave Inverness Caley side as Jamie Walker’s late goal was not enough.

In summary, it could have been better but nothing to raise alarm bells.

Recruitment



Beni Baningime was the star of recruitment in Gorgie
Beni Baningime was the star of recruitment in Gorgie

Yet another area where the Gorgie side needed to see huge improvements, and luckily they did.

Joe Savage’s arrival as sporting director now looks like a masterstroke and two guys he brought on – Will Lancefield and George Brown – have contributed to the strong recruiting the club now boasts.

For the first time in years, there were absolutely no failures from players signed last summer.

Beni Baningime, Cammy Devlin, Barrie McKay and probably Alex Cochrane fall into the all-around success category.

The front three have stood out, while Cochrane has been a more than consistent and consistent player at left-back. The club would like to secure him a permanent contract.

Taylor Moore hasn’t played as much as he would have liked after being loaned out by Bristol City, but it’s hard to play his way under John Souttar, Craig Halkett and Stephen Kingsley.

When he played he showed exactly why he was brought to the club, both at centre-back and, where applicable, right-back.

The fans wouldn’t be disappointed if he replaced the outgoing Souttar.

Ben Woodburn came with high expectations and blew hot and cold, but certainly did enough in some games to justify his loan capture.

Josh Ginnelly and Ross Stewart got permanent loans. Stewart was always going to be a stand-in for Craig Gordon, and while Ginnelly hasn’t reached the heights he did last season, he’s still a valued member of the team. A permanent deal also made perfect sense after his loan spells.

Nathaniel Atkinson obviously hasn’t played yet, but on paper he looks exciting and fits the profile the club have successfully used so far.

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