Changes are afoot at Hearts as discipline lesson follows red card tally

Whatever team changes Hearts make for Thursday’s Europa Conference League tie against Fiorentina, every player will take the field clear on their manager’s discipline policy.
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Josh Ginnelly, Jorge Grant, Peter Haring and others are competing for starting places following substitute roles in Saturday’s 4-0 loss to Rangers. Robbie Neilson is expected to make some alterations having stressed the need for order and control against wily Italian opponents.

Cammy Devlin’s red card for a studs-first challenge on Rangers winger Rabbi Matondo’s ankle has been well-documented. There is no doubt the Australian will learn from his mistake and Neilson is backing him to do so.

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It was Hearts’ fourth dismissal in 13 games this season. The other three came in similarly high-profile games against Celtic [Alex Cochrane and Toby Sibbick] and FC Zurich [Grant].

After Antonio Colak’s double and further goals by Alfredo Morelos and Ryan Kent consigned Hearts to a comprehensive Premiership defeat, the manager addressed his squad in the Tynecastle Park dressing room to reiterate what is expected.

“When you get a player sent off in the first half against the Old Firm, it’s going to be difficult,” Neilson told the Evening News. “What happened after that, you look at it and ask yourself what we learned.

“Firstly, don’t get anybody sent off against the Old Firm. If you do that, you are going to be in trouble. We play on Thursday night and, if we get a guy sent off against Fiorentina after 30-odd minutes, we will be in trouble again.

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“So we need to make sure we are more disciplined, make the right decisions in the right areas and keep people on the pitch. I felt our discipline was fine apart from that.

Hearts players look dejected as Rangers celebrate the opening goal on Saturday.Hearts players look dejected as Rangers celebrate the opening goal on Saturday.
Hearts players look dejected as Rangers celebrate the opening goal on Saturday.

“Cammy will learn from it. He is a young kid. He came over here last year and he is full of energy, full of passion and aggression. He is always borderline. On Saturday he probably just stepped over the mark a wee bit but that happens. I’ve been there myself as a player. Most people who played football have been there at some point.

“After the game I spoke more to the group about things. We speak before big games and we spoke before Saturday’s game about the importance of keeping 11 players on the pitch. When you play in derbies, or against the Old Firm, or in Europe, it’s crucial – and we didn’t do it on Saturday.”

Riccarton coaching staff now face a difficult decision regarding who makes Thursday’s line-up. A win against Fiorentina renders qualification from Group A a more realistic possibility for the Edinburgh club.

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“The positives from Saturday are that a few boys got some minutes on the pitch that they needed. Robert Snodgrass got some game time, Stephen Humphrys got some game time,” said Neilson.

“I thought the boys fought really hard, worked hard and kept their shape. They did everything they could to try and get us back into the game. Ultimately, it wasn't enough.”

Hearts (4-2-3-1): Gordon; M Smith, Neilson, Kingsley (Halliday 46), Cochrane; Devlin, Kiomourtzoglou (Grant 61); Humphrys, McKay (Snodgrass 46), Forrest (Haring 44); Shankland (Ginnelly 61).

Rangers (4-2-3-1): McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Davies (Sands 46), Barisic; Jack (Davis 46), Lundstram; Matondo (Sakala 79), Arfield (Tillman 63), Kent; Colak (Morelos 63).

Referee: Steven McLean.

Attendance: 18,433.