Neilson says regular away wins will be needed if Hearts are to challenge Rangers and Celtic.
Robbie Neilson admits Hearts still have plenty to prove if they are to challenge Rangers and Celtic over the course of the season.
The manager was thrilled with Saturday’s 5-2 win over Dundee United but he feels his side – who had failed to win in their previous four matches – have still not shown enough consistency to be considered genuine title contenders.
He said: “I don’t think you’d say we’re comfortable at the top end of the league if you saw us last week up at Pittodrie (in a 2-1 defeat by Aberdeen). It’s about consistency of performance for us.
“Rangers went to Motherwell and won 6-1 last week. We need to get to that level where we’re consistently going to away games and winning if we want to get anywhere near Celtic and Rangers. At the moment we’ll win some and we’ll lose some. We need to get to that level.
“For us this season, the key is going to be consistency. Can we do it week in, week out?
“Because there’s no doubting if we can get to that level (against Dundee United) we’ll be in a very good position at the end of the season but we had last weekend at Aberdeen where they didn’t allow us to play the way we wanted to play and we struggled, especially in the second half.
“It’s about figuring out ways to stay in the game and produce that performance when things are not going for us. ”
Neilson was encouraged to see his team win so impressively without key duo Michael Smith and Liam Boyce. Although happy with the strength of his squad, the manager believes there is still scope for improvement.
He said: “It’s a nice position to be in but I think there’s still a couple of areas we can improve or strengthen in. We’re working on that now to recruit in the January window.”
Dundee United manager Tam Courts, who lost key centre-back Charlie Mulgrew to injury at half-time, admitted it had been a chastening day for his team.
He said: “It’s been one of those weeks. Kerr Smith has had a personal issue to deal with, we’ve been trying to nurse Charlie Mulgrew towards the game and then Dylan Levitt pulled out on Friday so we’ve almost been chasing the whole week, and that’s the way the game unfolded as well.
“The team will learn from this game and I’ll learn, and we’ll be better for it.”