Hearts defender not impressed by Alloa’s pitch

Adam Eckersley says he found stones on the plastic pitch

Adam Eckersley says he found stones on the plastic pitch

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Adam Eckersley believes Hearts’ meticulous preparation can help them overcome the latest obstacle in their bid to win the Championship title.

The unbeaten league leaders travel to Alloa Athletic tomorrow and, with the Wasps’ plastic pitch having proved particularly unpopular with other clubs, head coach Robbie Neilson decided to take his team through to train at Recreation Park on Wednesday.

The Tynecastle club forked out £240 for the chance to get a feel for the artificial surface and then did further preparation work on plastic yesterday, when they trained at Spartans’ Ainslie Park. Left-back Eckersley was highly unimpressed with the Wasps’ pitch and explained that it is not of the same quality as Queen of the South’s artificial surface, on which Hearts won 3-0 last weekend.

However, he is confident that Hearts will be prepared for how to deal with the problems it poses after their workout there earlier in the week.

“It was pretty professional of us to go through there and check the surface out before we go there tomorrow,” Eckersley told the Evening News. “It’s good preparation and will definitely help us. It’s not one of the best surfaces I’ve played on but it’ll be the same for all the teams that have to go there. Queen of the South’s pitch is a lot better, a lot softer.

“There were actually some quite big stones on the pitch on Wednesday, which I don’t think were meant to be there. These are the things you have to deal with, though. I’ve never been a fan of astroturf – I’m an old-fashioned grass man, but we’ve got to get on with it and get the job done.”

Alloa lie second-bottom in the Championship, but both Rangers and Hibs have already struggled at Recreation Park. Eckersley is confident that Hearts, aiming to set a new second-tier record of 25 points from the first nine games, will not follow suit. “Hibs and Rangers have both slipped up there so it won’t be easy,” he said. “We know it’s going to be a difficult game but we’ll go there with the right mentality and hopefully do what we did at Queen of the South and turn them over.”

Hearts have a fully-fit squad to call on, although James Keatings, who has a niggling groin problem, and Callum Paterson, who recently returned from a knee injury, are unlikely to feature prominently on the plastic tomorrow.