Hearts’ new signings ready for action against Raith

Ian Cathro must decide whether Andraz Struna, pictured, will start ahead of Liam Smith at right-back. Picture: Hearts FC

Ian Cathro must decide whether Andraz Struna, pictured, will start ahead of Liam Smith at right-back. Picture: Hearts FC

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Ian Cathro today declared Hearts’ four new signings ready for action against Raith Rovers in the Scottish Cup.

Defenders Aaron Hughes, Lennard Sowah and Andraz Struna, plus midfielder Malaury Martin, are all preparing to play in the fourth-round tie.

“We don’t have many players,” admitted the Edinburgh club’s head coach. “So I think some of them for sure will be on the pitch. Everyone is in a good place.”

Cathro must decide whether Struna will start ahead of Liam Smith at right-back. The Slovenian internationalist has been without a club for six months since leaving PAS Giannina of Greece.

“Andraz has not played for a period of time so that brings its own challenges,” explained Cathro. “From the point of view of being fit, and having trained and being healthy, his training data shows he’s good to go.

“These things need managed of course and we need to make sure we make the right decisions to go gradually and not put anyone at risk. The guys are fine.”

Cathro insisted tomorrow’s Championship opponents are being given every respect.

Hearts have been inactive since December 30 due to the Premiership’s winter break. Raith have played three league games in the intervening period.

“That’s a factor, one of the factors anyway. They’ve been playing, it’s been a while since we’ve felt a high, there’s been a bit of hurt, so we need to play quickly. That’s all everyone wants.

“We’ve put the same amount of hours into Raith as we would do Celtic, or anyone else. We have a decent understanding of what they have, although they have one player who will be out of the team because he is cup-tied [Ryan Stevenson].

“There will be something different. We are comfortable we have done our work to deal with the options they have.

“They are capable of playing well and quickly, with players who can come inside and link up well, and in midfield they have quality.

“There are aspects we need to understand. The most important aspect is we win the fight to impose our football and put them in our game.”

Cathro maintained Hearts have not been especially busy during the January window despite signing four players and shipping five out – Alim Ozturk, Igor Rossi, Tony Watt, Juanma Delgado and Robbie Muirhead.

“I don’t feel like we have done a lot,” he stated. “I am aware that we have perhaps done more than other clubs but nothing has been ripped up. It has been individual situations and us trying to do the right thing.

“Always it’s for the club but sometimes for people as well. It really hasn’t been drastic. The number is a higher number than maybe we thought but it has not been a drastic thing.”

Cathro stressed Hearts have no interest in signing the Rangers winger Michael O’Halloran or the Preston striker Stevie May.

Asked about O’Halloran, who Motherwell are keen to sign, he replied: “No, I don’t know what created that. Definitely not. I know that Mark [Warburton, Rangers manager] commented in his press conference. I actually saw him at the manager’s meeting earlier in the week and there is nothing in that.”

On May, he added: “I would say he fits the profile of the type of striker we’d maybe like to add, but there’s nothing real about that one. Although it’s better speculation than O’Halloran!

“It’s not true but I can see how someone maybe came up with that one, but ultimately there’s been no contact. His name is not on a list. I am just thinking back to him as a player and he is not far from the profile that we’d discussed. It’s not something we have moved on or acted on.”