Robbie Neilson dedicates Hearts' win over RFS Riga to the club's fans

‘What a night they are going to have!’: Robbie Neilson dedicates Hearts’ win over RFS Riga in the Conference League to the club’s travelling supporters… as he hails ‘outstanding’ teenage centre-back Lewis Neilson

  • Hearts got off the mark in the Conference League with a 2-0 win over RFS Riga
  • The Tynecastle side are up to second in their group and face Fiorentina next
  • Robbie Neilson praised the club’s fans for spending their money on the away trip
  • Lewis Neilson, 19, impressed in defence after replacing Craig Halkett early on 
  • The Hearts boss also hailed Josh Ginnelly, Cammy Devlin and Craig Gordon

Robbie Neilson urged Hearts fans to enjoy the party after watching their heroes storm up to second in Europa Conference League Group A.

The Tynecastle side had been on a run of one win in seven matches before Thursday night’s 2-0 victory against RFS Riga courtesy of a Lawrence Shankland penalty and a stoppage time goal by substitute Alan Forrest.

Hearts are now ahead of Fiorentina who lost 3-0 to Istanbul Basaksehir in Turkey after drawing at home with Riga in their opening game.

Robbie Neilson urged Hearts fans to enjoy the party after watching their side win 2-0 over RFS

Neilson was refusing to get ahead of himself ahead of a double-header coming up against the Serie A giants, but he hopes this fine result in the Latvian capital helps Hearts learn that they belong at this level.

‘I’m really pleased, firstly for the fans,’ he said. What a night they are going to have. They have backed this cub to the absolutely hilt. They put their money in every month.

‘It’s expensive to come here at this time of year but hopefully we have repaid them a bit. I think we can use this performance and result as a springboard for the rest of the season.

‘We have been through a sticky patch recently but we’ve also had a number of injuries and it’s been hard to get that consistency.

The Hearts boss praised supporters for spending their money on the away trip to Latvia

Lawrence Shankland scored the opening goal from the penalty spot just before half-time

‘We knew coming here we were playing against a very good team, who drew with Fiorentina last week.

‘Let’s not get too carried away just yet. Fiorentina are not a bad side. It will be another very tough game but I hope tonight gives the players confidence that they can play and win games at this level.’

Hearts saw their injury problems resurface when defender Craig Halkett limped off early with a recurrence of the hamstring issues that have kept him out for a month.

But Neilson was delighted with how 19-year-old Lewis Neilson coped with the threat of the importing Riga dangerman Andrej Ilic.

Alan Forrest is embraced by Cameron Devlin after wrapping up the win for Hearts late on

The Scottish side are up to second in their Conference League group and face Fiorentina next

The Hearts boss also singled out Josh Ginnelly, Cammy Devlin and Craig Gordon for praise in the wake of this fine result.

‘It’s always a risk putting a player back in after an injury but hopefully Craig’s injury is not as bad as the last time. He felt a wee twinge in the same spot and felt it was better to come off.

‘He won’t make Sunday against Motherwell at Fir Park but then we have a couple of weeks off and I am hoping he will be back after that.

‘But Lewis Neilson was outstanding. For a 19-year-old kid to come in and play Europe Conference League football against very good team was great. Physically he did well and on the ball he was outstanding as well. In time he will be a top player.

Goalkeeper Craig Gordon was singled out for praise by Neilson after keeping a clean sheet

‘I also thought that was one of Josh Ginnelly’s best games for us and Cammy Devlin was outstanding. He got his first Australia call-up earlier this week and that gave him a big lift.

‘He picked the right pass at the right time for Alan Forrest’s goal which was very important for us. And Craig Gordon is just a top, top keeper. He just produces save after save for us.

‘If you are a defensive unit and you have someone like Craig Gordon behind you then you know it’s going to take something very special to beat you.

‘We could have potentially cored a couple of more goals tonight but so could Riga. But I am just delighted to win.’

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