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Hearts manager Robbie Neilson has admitted his side are in a battle to hold on to third spot in the cinch Premiership.

A 3-0 defeat at Aberdeen saw the Dons cut the gap on the Jambos to four points, with Edinburgh rivals Hibernian a further point adrift.

Neilson is demanding a response from his team against Kilmarnock when the league campaign resumes after the international break.

Neilson said: “The two teams behind us are showing a bit of form. We are huffing and puffing and we need to get back at it now.

“If you had asked in the World Cup break when we were sitting five or six points behind, if you could be in this position then I would probably have taken it.

“But we have had opportunities to go further ahead and we have not managed to take it so we need to get ourselves going again.

“When you play for Hearts, you are expected to win every single game and when we go down to Kilmarnock in two weeks time we will be expected to win but we need to bring more energy and positivity to the game.”

Aberdeen interim manager Barry Robson believes the Dons’ style is bringing out the best in Luis Lopes.

The 23-year-old was a key performer against Hearts, netting twice in the first half to move on to 15 goals in his debut season, while Mattie Pollock was also on target in a dominant opening period.

Robson said: “I think the way we are playing suits Duk (Lopes). I think it suits all the players and we played some really good football against Hearts.

“It was exciting and that is ultimately what I want to see; good football and winning football.

“I was pleased with that and Duk brought a lot of that. He is a humble boy, who wants to work for his team.

“He wants to run and he looks dangerous. The way we want to play really suits him.”