Craig Levein does not believe Kyle Lafferty has played his last game for Hearts – and insists people should not misinterpret his gesture at the end of Saturday’s Betfred Cup win at Dunfermline.
The striker has been the subject of transfer bids from Rangers and gave his shirt and shinpads to Hearts supporters after the 1-0 victory, which came courtesy of Olly Lee’s goal.
Manager Levein did not regard Lafferty’s antics as a farewell act, although talks with Ibrox officials are ongoing. “Kyle costs us a fortune. He does that every single week,” smiled Levein. “So don’t read anything into that.”
Asked if he thought the match was Lafferty’s last in maroon before a proposed move to Ibrox, Levein replied: “No.”
Lee’s winner came 11 minutes from full-time. “It was a good goal from Olly. He has great technique and you can see that his touch and passing,” said Levein.
“I like when he gets close to the goal because he is very accurate with his shooting. There wasn’t much space for him but he found the bottom corner.
It was a tough match and I got what I expected from an in-form Dunfermline side. They are full of confidence, they played well and they ran us close.
“I said to the players afterwards that it was never going to be easy – but we did deserve to go through.”
Hearts had goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal to thank for impressive saves to deny Dunfermline’s Faissal El Bakhtaoui and Aidan Connolly.
“Maybe I’m a bit hard to please, but I’d have expected him to save two of those,” said Levein. “The last one [from Connolly] was an outstanding save, though.
“It was a strange game towards the end. It was even in the first half and I felt we controlled it after that.
“We didn’t cut them open as often as we’d have liked, but as often happens you get the goal and the other teams puts pressure on.
“If we had taken more care, we could have ended up winning 2-0.”
Hearts’ desire to sign a new centre-back increased when Aaron Hughes was taken off at half-time with a calf complaint. They are already missing captain Christophe Berra for the next six months.
“I didn’t want to move Peter Haring into defence but Aaron’s calf was bothering him at half-time. I didn’t have much choice as I am trying to get a centre-back in - and I might need two now,” explained Levein.