HEARTS head coach Robbie Neilson has hailed the 'huge talent' of Dario Zanatta after handing the teenager his debut at the weekend.

Zanatta joined Hearts in August after beginning his senior career with the youth academy at Vancouver Whitecaps.

And the highly rated 18-year-old, who also had trials with IFK Gothenburg and Ipswich Town before signing for the Gorgie side, has not had to wait long for first-team action.

The Canada Under-18 internationalist was given the last 20 minutes of Saturday's 4-0 thrashing of Partick Thistle as the Tynecastle side moved up to second in the Premiership.

Neilson believes Zanatta, who netted for the club's Under-20s in their 2-2 draw with Falkirk on Monday, has the potential to enjoy a bright future in the game.

Neilson said: "It was great to give Dario his debut.

"I was disappointed for Gavin Reilly because I was going to put him on for Osman [Sow], but Sam Nicholson pulled up with a bit of cramp and I decided to take him off.

"It was good to get Dario on. He's a young kid we signed in the summer and he's got a huge talent.

"It was good to blood another of the young ones that's coming through."

Zanatta was introduced at Firhill as Hearts enjoyed the comfort of a 3-0 lead, with Sow subsequently converting a late penalty to earn an impressive 4-0 success.

The result allowed the Tynecastle side, who have won eight and drawn two of their 13 league matches so far this season, to leapfrog Aberdeen into second spot in the Premiership.

However, with some questioning whether Hearts can put up a fight to Celtic at the top of the table, Neilson is sticking to his mantra that a top-six finish remains the focus of his Championship winners.

He added: "The aim is to finish in the top-six and the closer we can stay to the top and second then the better chance we've got of finishing in the top-six.

"I'm pleased with where we are at the moment but there's a long way to go, we've only played 13 games.

"We'll keep working hard and continue to build and try to progress.

"But performances like in the second-half on Saturday can only help us."