Robbie Neilson praised Jorge Grant for helping Hearts get on the front foot in their 3-0 victory over St Johnstone.
The English midfielder, who has been frustrated by a lack of game time since joining from Peterborough last summer, shone on Saturday as he marked his sixth cinch Premiership start with his team’s third goal.
Neilson felt Grant’s presence allowed the Jambos to play higher up the pitch.
“I thought he did well,” said the Hearts boss. “He played higher, which we were trying to do.
“I think that was one of our problems recently, our centre-backs have been deep, midfielders have been deep, 10s have been deep, but Jorge was a lot closer to the strikers and it allowed us to get him into the areas he’s good at.
“He’s technically a top player, there’s no doubting that. We need him higher up the pitch, and we managed to do that (against Saints), so I was really pleased with him.”
Neilson was also happy to see Barrie McKay make a positive impact against Saints after the playmaker felt compelled to use Friday’s pre-match press conference to defend his own form on the back of criticism from some supporters.
“Barrie’s a top player,” said the manager. “He’s probably technically the best player we’ve got, or one of the best players.
“You see in games teams that will put two or three players on him and it can be difficult at times.
“We had so many injuries at the start of the season that we were asking our creative players to play Sunday-Thursday-Sunday-Thursday (while playing in Europe). They lose that spark.
“I think you are starting to see the best of Barrie now.”
St Johnstone boss Callum Davidson admits he is “sick of the sight” of Josh Ginnelly after the Hearts forward scored a double to make it five goals against the Perth side in the past two seasons. He also lamented a couple of key saves made by the Jambos’ former Saints goalkeeper Zander Clark.
“I am sick of the sight of him (Ginnelly), yes,” he said. “It’s funny how some players enjoy playing against people and he’s scored against us again.
“Zander also had a very good game, he’s playing well here.
“We are pleased to see him doing well but not when it’s against us!”
Davidson expects to have both Nicky Clark and Andy Considine back for the trip to Kilmarnock in a fortnight after the pair pulled out of training on Friday.
“They were both in the team but Nicky rolled his ankle and Andy has a problem with the top of his hamstring,” said the Saints boss.
“It was a big blow to lose them because they bring a lot of experience and that’s important when you come to a place like this.
“They will be fine for Kilmarnock.”