HEARTS midfielder Ryan Stevenson is adamant there was no malice in his contentious tackle on Hibs captain James McPake during Thursday night’s Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle.
Stevenson was vilified by Hibs manager Pat Fenlon and defender Ryan McGivern for the rash two-footed lunge just before the interval, with the former describing it as “shocking” and the latter labelling it “disgusting”.
The Hearts player escaped even a booking, but now faces an anxious wait to learn if he will face retrospective punishment from SFA compliance officer Vincent Lunny. Stevenson, however, insists that the ball was there to be won, and, although he acknowledged it didn’t look good, he stressed that there was never any intent to cause McPake harm, as had been suggested by McGivern.
“It was 50-50 and the ball was there to be won,” he told the Hearts website. “I went in hard, but in my mind I went in fair too. It may not look great in slow motion, but my only intention was to win the ball, nothing else.
“It was a typical Edinburgh derby with hard tackles going in all over the pitch, from both sets of players. Some challenges have been highlighted and others forgotten about, but that’s all part and parcel of football. I’ll always give 100 per cent every week in a Hearts shirt, be it tracking back to defend, bursting forward to shoot or trying to win possession.”
Stevenson is ruing the fact Hearts were unable to turn their second-half dominance into a victory on Thursday night. He added: “I thought we were desperately unlucky not to take three points. I felt we put in a good shift, a performance that was worthy of a win.
“When you consider the changes the gaffer was forced into, losing the services of Ryan McGowan and Andy Webster, he had to shift it around a bit, and I thought that the whole team adapted very well.
“It was a game I think we pretty much dominated and on another day Jason Holt’s shot after rounding the Hibs keeper wouldn’t have been blocked on the line, and John Sutton’s last-minute header would’ve crept in under the crossbar instead of rattling off of it.
“Those are the breaks that we’re perhaps not getting at the moment, but nobody can question the team’s effort or desire to win that game. We went out there to win and unfortunately we just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.”
Peter Enckelman has left Hearts following the expiry of his six-month contract. The veteran Finn was brought in as cover for Jamie MacDonald in August after second-choice keeper Mark Ridgers suffered a long-term injury. However, he left with only one appearance to his name – a substitute outing away to Celtic in October. Teenage goalkeeper Jack Hamilton has extended his loan spell at Second Division Forfar until 12 February.