Locke confident Stevo gamble will be worth it

Hearts star Ryan Stevenson. Pic: SNS

Hearts star Ryan Stevenson. Pic: SNS

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Hearts manager Gary Locke feels that the prospect of having Ryan Stevenson available for the League Cup semi-final against Inverness outweighs all the other risks of hastily rearranging the league match with St Mirren for this Wednesday.

Stevenson, Hearts’ most experienced player, was set to miss out on next weekend’s last-four showdown with Caley Thistle, as the suspension incurred for last Saturday’s dismissal at St Johnstone automatically ruled him out of the next two matches.

With only one league game – away to Ross County tomorrow – scheduled before the semi, Hearts got innovative and managed to persuade St Mirren to play them at Tynecastle on Wednesday, allowing the 29-year-old forward to see out his ban before the showdown at Easter Road on February 2.

Playing an additional game, especially just four days before the semi-final, heightens the chances of other players picking up injuries and suspensions, but Locke reckons it was a calculated gamble worth taking.

“There is no point in lying, the reason we rearranged it was to get Ryan available for the semi-final because he is an important player for the team,” he said.

“That’s the reason behind it. You risk someone getting sent off or injured, but I think it’s a risk worth taking. It’s obviously not ideal to have such a big game four days before such a big semi-final. But I think if we are going to give ourselves any chance we want our strongest team on the pitch.

“I think you have seen this season when Ryan has not been available he has been a big loss to the team. So it was a decision made by everyone at the club to try and rearrange the game. And we’re delighted that is the case.”

Meanwhile, Locke admits he was baffled to learn that referee Brian Colvin had phoned St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright to try and explain some of his decisions in last week’s controversial 3-3 draw between the teams.

Both teams were riled by some of the officials’ calls, but the Hearts manager, who was particularly incensed by the two penalties awarded against his side, insists he hasn’t heard a word from Colvin.

“That was good of the referee [to phone Wright], wasn’t it?” said Locke. “I’m still waiting on my phone call. I would have appreciated one. I spoke to John Fleming but I’m not the only one [who thinks the decisions were wrong], it’s not as if I am sitting here making things up.

“You saw the first penalty decision and it was three yards outside the box. I don’t expect referees to phone every manager and what have you. But if he is going to phone Tommy then he should have phoned me as well.”