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Robbie Neilson praises defence as in-form Hearts go top with Saints win

St Mirren v Heart of Midlothian – cinch Premiership – The SMiSA Stadium
(Image credit: jeffholmes)

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson praised his players’ defensive diligence as they won at St Mirren to move to the top of the cinch Premiership.

Goals from Andy Halliday and Liam Boyce gave the visitors a commanding lead and meant Joe Shaughnessy’s late header served only as a consolation for Saints who also had Kristian Dennis sent off.

It was Hearts’ first win in Paisley for almost 11 years and a sixth victory on the spin since the summer.

Neilson said: “I’ve been pleased with the start to the season but I keep emphasising to the players that it’s only a start.

“We’ve had a really good League Cup campaign which allows us to go to Celtic Park [for their last-16 tie] next Sunday.

“We’ve now had two good results in the league and I said to the boys before the game that we haven’t won here since 2010.

“That shows it’s a very difficult place to come to and get the three points. I’m delighted we managed to do that.

“I’ve watched a lot of St Mirren, they’re a strong team and they have a lot of cohesion as they have kept most of their best players for the last couple of years.

“They all know each other’s game and cause you a lot of problems as they have physicality and pace up front.

“We knew there would be times they would have the ball and we would need to press them. I thought our back three stood up to them very well.”

St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin felt his players had shown Hearts too much respect and had not been clinical enough with their chances.

He said: “It’s very frustrating. In the first 20 minutes we didn’t do well enough. Hearts deservedly went in front. It took us until after the goal to get to grips with the shape and the system.

“I felt after that we coped better and carried more of a threat. We asked Jamie McGrath to press the centre-back, Alan Power to come up higher and the back lads to squeeze the game.

“We were too cagey and showed Hearts too much respect. In the second half we were better. We played the majority in Hearts’ territory.

“But we needed to do things quicker. And we lacked creativity in the final third when we got there.”