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‘Can you go to Glasgow and win?’ Robbie Neilson challenges high-flying Hearts

Heart of Midlothian v Hibernian – cinch Premiership – Tynecastle Park
(Image credit: Jeff Holmes)

Robbie Neilson challenged his Hearts side to go to Ibrox in a fortnight’s time and prove they are the real deal after their 2-0 win over in-form Motherwell sent them top of the cinch Premiership.

Liam Boyce and Stephen Kingsley were on target in the first half as the Tynecastle side extended their unbeaten start in the top flight to eight games for the first time since 2005.

The win took them above both Rangers and Hibernian, who meet in Glasgow on Sunday.

And after the international break Hearts head to Ibrox in a match which Neilson believes represents an acid test of their credentials this season.

The manager said: “We’ve had a lot of challenges this season. The first one was, ‘Could we improve the away record?’ I think in the last 15-20 years, Hearts have won more than 50 per cent of their away games once, so that’s the first thing for us to try and rectify. And the second one we spoke about at the start of the season is, ‘Can we go to Glasgow and win?’

“That’s the next challenge for us. It’s going to be tough but we go, no matter what happens (between Rangers and Hibs on Sunday), to Ibrox close to them. We’ve got a lot of young guys in the team that are improving all the time, so it’s another test for them to go there. It will be tough but we have a belief we can go there and perform.

“That is the ultimate aim for every team because that tells you where you are. Can you go to Glasgow and win? It is a different beast when you go through to Glasgow, so we need to be ready for that.

“We have players who can handle the ball and players that can work defensively so we will go there and we will give it a shot.”

Neilson, who confirmed that Craig Halkett was taken off with back spasms and should be fit for Ibrox, was delighted with the way his team dealt with a tough test against Motherwell.

He said: “First half we played really, really well, but in the second half we didn’t pass it so well. We were playing against a team who have had a brilliant start so we’ve got to be pleased with the overall performance.”

Motherwell manager Graeme Alexander felt his side performed well, despite seeing their six-game unbeaten run in the league come to an end.

He said: “I’m disappointed because I felt we deserved more from the game. I thought we created some great chances, especially in the second half.

“The general performance was a massive improvement on last week when we won, but the big moments didn’t go for us today.”

Reflecting on the early penalty Hearts scored from, Alexander said: “I think there might be a touch, but there is only one thing the lad (Boyce) is looking for. He’s an experienced player and we have to learn from that.”