HEARTS manager Robbie Neilson has set his sights on winning the battle for second place in the Scottish Premiership after conceding that Celtic are just too strong for the chasing pack.
Celtic are almost out of sight in the league having dropped only two points away to Inverness in September and having beaten all of the challengers, including Aberdeen home and away.
Neilson reckons though that Hearts should take one thing at a time and hopes that by coming out on top in the race for second spot, that will put the ambitious Tynecastle side in a better position to challenge Celtic next time around.
“Our focus just now is getting above Rangers and getting above Aberdeen, then we can take it from there,” said the Hearts gaffer, who has to wait until Monday evening for the away trip to Hamilton.
“The season has been a bit stop-start with all the international breaks so we’re looking to get some momentum going. That starts at Hamilton which is a huge game for us.
That momentum, Neilson hopes, will be good enough to see his side get the better of the Ibrox and Pittodrie sides, as well as St Johnstone who are also in a four team mini-league behind a dominant Celtic side. Neilson recognising the gulf that exists between Celtic and these sides.
“We want to try to stay as close as we can to them, but it’s difficult,” he admitted.
“You look at the resources they have, going and spending £4 million on players, that makes it extremely difficult.”
But Neilson isn’t quite ready to throw in the towel just yet, although he’s somewhat left scratching his head wondering just how that might be possible. And he’s not alone in doing that either, with Derek McInnes a veteran over the past few years and Mark Warburton realizing beating teams like Dumbarton isn’t the same as getting the better of the Scottish Champions.
“We have to try and get as close as we can to put them under some sort of pressure,” said Neilson.
Hamilton recently shocked Aberdeen when they came calling to South Lanarkshire. Neilson will be hoping to avoid a similar outcome on Monday, in a match delayed due to a weekend road closure .