Robbie Neilson advises Hearts derby newcomers to shine on Easter Road as he rates Shaun Maloney’s Hibs start

Laid-back Robbie Neilson knows it’s easier said than done, but his recipe for winning a derby is pretty straightforward.

“Win your first header, win your first inning, win your 50-50 and win the game, it’s as easy as that,” smiled the Hearts boss. “If we do that, we will win it.”

Neilson leads his side through the capital tonight brimming with confidence and hoping to extend his lead over Hibs to a giant 15 points.

But the Jambos boss has been involved in enough of these matches to know that form is going out the window. His side might be riding high right now, but on Easter Road, in front of a packed house, he knows the tide could turn.

“We are on a good run of form at the moment, but getting into a derby, it doesn’t really matter,” he insisted. “It’s how you start the game and also how you implement yourself into the game.

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“Derbies can be a springboard for a streak of good form or they can fuel a streak of bad form.

“We’re sitting in a position where we’re doing well, but we’re hoping to get a result that really pushes us forward.”

Most of his squad (14 of them, in fact) have never experienced Hibs on Easter Road, but Neilson thinks they’ll have seen enough on TV to know what’s in store.

He added: “It is the nature of football now that at most clubs, players come and go in a year or two years. We haven’t been to Easter Road for a while because we got demoted last season, but it’s going to be a great experience for all these guys.

“They have all played in big games and know what to expect playing in derbies and cup finals.

“I have no qualms about them. I am sure you will enjoy it.

“Most of them have watched the games anyway because they are broadcast all over Britain. The boys know what they are getting into.

“There are always great games at Tynecastle and Easter Road. There is a great accumulation, a great atmosphere. We’ll take a full allocation of 3,500 fans and the away winger will be great.”

The fact that Hibs has the vast majority of support in Leith is of no concern to the Hearts boss. He is simply delighted that the game is being played in front of a packed crowd, having been shelved since early January because no fans were allowed at the time.

Neilson said: “It was a gamble at the time, but it was a great decision to do it. Last season and even during the games we had a month ago without fans, it’s not real football. There is no atmosphere and it is not nice. I’m looking forward to tomorrow with a full house.”

And he seems to be relishing the chance to face new Hibs boss Shaun Maloney for the first time and confessed he is more than happy to be taking on a Hibs side who lost striker Martin Boyle in the transfer window.

Neilson admitted: “Boyle was a great player for them with his pace and he caused a lot of trouble, but they have drafted a number of players and their team has changed quite a bit.

“Shaun came in and changed his style. He is more possession based and you can see what they are trying to do. They have a way of playing, just like us. It will be an interesting game.

“For us it is how we present ourselves. We know how we want to play.

“In the last two games, to be honest, we haven’t implemented it (playstyle) as well as we would have liked and hopefully we can get back to our way of playing. Although it will be a difficult game away from home, we still have to try to control the ball”.

Hearts will be without injured Michael Smith and Craig Halkett, but John Souttar has recovered from a bruised ankle and will play tonight.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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