Robbie Neilson says Hearts striker Liam Boyce can hit 20 goals this season
Robbie Neilson challenged Hearts striker Liam Boyce to reach 20 goals this season after his classy winning goal against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Boyce’s elegant heel flick added to Steven Naismith’s opener secured a 2-1 victory for the Edinburgh club despite Aaron Doran’s late consolation for the visitors.
The win maintained Hearts’ 100 per cent record in all competitions. Manager Neilson stated that Boyce can still improve as the player heads off on international duty with Northern Ireland.
"I expect Boycie to score a minimum of double figures. I’d like him to get up to 15 or 20 and I think he will,” said Neilson. “He is still getting up to speed, like a number of the players, after such a long time off.
"They were two good finishes. We got into good areas in the first half but the final moment didn’t come. In the second half we got the goals so it was pleasing.
"Towards the end, Inverness went gung-ho and got the goal which puts us under pressure. If the quality had been better, we would probably have got another goal.
“I think we’ve played better. We started the game okay and had a couple of chances. I was always worried about coming into this game after the high of last week [Scottish Cup semi-final win against Hibs] to make sure we got back up to it again.
“After all the energy last Saturday, it was always going to take its toll on the team. The main thing was getting three points, that’s three out of three in the league, which sets us up for Tuesday.”
Hearts travel to East Fife in the Betfred Cup in midweek and Neilson is targeting another victory there after seven out of seven so far this term.
“I spoke when I first came in about getting a winning mentality, especially after last season. We only won four games all season so we’ve almost doubled that in the first couple of months this time, which is very pleasing,” he said.
"As with any big club, you have to win the following game. So now we go to East Fife on Tuesday and have to win again.
"Hearts are expected to win every game, home and away. We need to win at East Fife, then it’s away to Dunfermline and we need to win that."
On a day when Hearts remembered former players who died in war, plus their former captain Marius Zaliukas who died last week, Neilson felt three points was fitting.
"Hearts’ affiliation with McCrae’s Battalion always makes this a very poignant and special day,” he said.
"I’ve been here as a player for 13 or 14 years, plus four or five as a manager. I always think it’s really important you get a result on a day like this because it’s such an important day.
"It’s doubly important because of Marius Zaliukas. We had a service the other day for him and everybody in the club was hurting.
"We had the high of the semi-final and then the low of finding out about Marius. It’s made it an emotional week for everyone so to get three points made it a good day for us all.”