Hearts boss hails Don Cowie’s influence on team

Don Cowie is yet to reach peak fitness
Don Cowie is yet to reach peak fitness
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ROBBIE NEILSON today acclaimed Don Cowie’s steadying influence after the midfielder’s best Hearts performance to date. Cowie gave a commanding display in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Partick Thistle as his fitness levels continue to improve.

Having signed him as a free agent last month, Neilson is pleased with the 33-year-old’s contribution so far. His experience is seen as an important component in and around Riccarton, where younger players naturally look up to seasoned professionals.

Cowie is still working on his physical sharpness after just 14 appearances in total this season between former club Wigan Athletic and Hearts. Saturday saw him nearing the levels he is capable of with an impressive midfield display.

“It was possibly his best performance for us. He hasn’t played a lot of games because he wasn’t involved too much with Wigan, so it’s taken him time to get his fitness. You know exactly what you’re going to get with Don,” explained the head coach.

“He’s an experienced player, he’s played in the Premier League in England, he’s played in the Championship and he’s played for Scotland. He’s a steadying influence for everyone else and we’re happy to have him in the team.”

Also receiving praise was the new-look central defensive pairing of Alim Ozturk and John Souttar. Both players strolled through the weekend match to record a third successive clean sheet inside a week. They are expected to continue their partnership when Hearts travel to Dundee this Saturday.

“They look assured and they look strong,” said Neilson. “They dealt with probably the most physical striker in Scotland at the moment. Mathias Pogba is 6ft 4in and 15st or 16st. Partick went direct to him and tried to play off him but I thought Ozturk and Souttar handled it really well.

“We’ve got Blazej Augustyn, Igor Rossi and Jordan McGhee who can play centre-half. The games that we’ve played recently, we’ve had quite a bit of possession and it’s important we had two players like John and Alim who are composed on the ball and can play football. Later in the week I’ll take a look at it and make a decision on Friday ahead of Saturday’s game.”

Hearts’ league trip to Inverness Caledonian Thistle has been moved from Tuesday, March 15, to Tuesday, April 5. The match will kick-off at 7.45pm.

The rescheduling is down to the Scottish Cup quarter-final replay between Inverness and Hibs on Wednesday, March 16.