Hearts remain Championship trailblazers under Robbie Neilson

By Kenny CrawfordBBC Sport Scotland
Head coach Robbie Neilson has led Hearts to seven wins from eight Championship games.
Head coach Robbie Neilson has led Hearts to seven wins from eight Championship games.

Microphones need to be held close to Robbie Neilson.

The Hearts head coach gives thoughtful and lengthy answers, but just in a very quietly spoken manner.

But don't be fooled into thinking that lack of volume translates into a shortage of authority on the sidelines.

His team needed a strong presence in the technical area against Queen of the South on Saturday.

For the first time in eight league games this season, Hearts were properly rattled.

"I think it's probably the hardest away venue to come to," Neilson told BBC Scotland afterwards.

"You go to Ibrox and Easter Road, the build-up's there and it's on a grass pitch and it's a big environment with a big crowd.

"But down here you're playing in front of 5000 people on Astroturf - against a good team. We knew that the first 20-25 minutes would be difficult, because it's a cup-tie feeling for Queens with us coming down with a big crowd."

It was actually the first 35 minutes at Palmerston that the visitors were severely short of rhythm.

The home side had hit the inside of the post with one of a number of chances, and Hearts centre-back Alim Ozturk had almost got himself needlessly sent off for a set-piece scuffle.

Robbie Neilson on the travelling Hearts support
"It's a difficult place to get to. A lot of them were coming down on buses or coming on the train to Lockerbie and getting buses across. It shows the spirit of the club and the enthusiasm. The support has been magnificent and we just hope to repay them as much as we can, by one, working hard, and two, getting results."

Queen of the South were comfortable, their new boss James Fowler eyeing an Edinburgh double after seeing off Hibs a fortnight earlier.

But that's when the gestures started. Good gestures.

Neilson, in the technical area, right-arm low by his side, clearly turning his hand over and over again as he urged his Jambos to retain possession by making simple passes - initially along the back four before getting more adventurous.

It was quickly apparent his players - a blend of youth from home and abroad - were aware of his direction.

Soufian El Hassnaoui was the next target for some sign language.

Neilson, in the technical area, striding forward and pointing both hands down to illustrate he wanted the Moroccan striker to drop into the hole between midfield and attack to receive a pass.

El Hassnaoui did so.

Jordan McGhee scored in front of 3000 away fans at Palmerston's Terregles Street end.
Jordan McGhee scored in front of 3000 away fans at Palmerston's Terregles Street end.

Another 60 seconds of the now-oiled cogs turning, and Hearts were in front. Three minutes later it was 2-0. And by the time the hour-mark arrived, the Jambos were three goals clear in Dumfries.

"We probably should've scored more goals," Neilson added.

"I was a wee bit disappointed that we didn't. We need to be more ruthless when we get opportunities, but 3-0 is good."

Hearts supporters, of whom 3000 travelled to ensure Palmerston's Terregles Street end was packed, will be glad they have a head coach who still demands more from a side that has scored 13 goals in their last three games and leads the league by six points.

And in a football age when talk can be cheap, the Hearts supporters will also be glad they have a head coach whose technical area actions can speak louder than words.