Craig Levein insists Hearts can still reach the Betfred Cup knockout stage despite receiving a two-point deduction and £10,000 fine for fielding an ineligible player.
The manager is targeting progress in spite of the setback but conceded he and his club are satisfied with the disciplinary outcome. At a Hampden Park hearing yesterday, the Scottish Professional Football League punished Hearts for using teenage substitute Andy Irving in their opening Group C match against Cove Rangers.
The Edinburgh club won the game 2-1 and drew with Raith Rovers on Saturday before gaining a bonus point from a 4-2 penalty shoot-out victory. That gave them five group points, but the SPFL have deducted two and issued a £10,000 penalty – £8000 of which is suspended until May 2020.
Hearts had feared losing all three points from their win at Cove before being docked two. Levein has urged his players to put maximum energy into winning their remaining two home group games against Cowdenbeath tonight and Inverness on Sunday in the hope of going through.
“We’re satisfied with the outcome of the hearing. Every case needs to be judged on its merits and that’s what the panel did; they considered all of the arguments before making their decision,” said Levein. “We can now focus fully on our match against Cowdenbeath at Tynecastle, knowing exactly what we have to do to get out of the group. Our aim is to progress in this competition and we’ll be going all out to do just that.”
Inverness and Cowdenbeath sit joint top of Group C on six points, with Hearts now on three.