Hearts boss to make changes after poor display against Raith

Craig Levein was unimpressed in Methil
Craig Levein was unimpressed in Methil
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Craig Levein is preparing to change the Hearts team after Saturday’s Betfred Cup draw with Raith Rovers.

Cowdenbeath visit tomorrow night as Tynecastle Park hosts its first game of the new season, but manager Levein hinted that some players will be dropped.

Hearts drew 1-1 with Raith at Bayview in Betfred Cup Group C before earning a bonus point via a 4-2 penalty shoot-out victory. Levein was exasperated by his team’s below-par display and felt they took the field expecting a routine victory.

He introduced teenagers Callumn Morrison, Aidan Keena and Anthony McDonald in the second half to add energy to a lethargic performance. Now, they and others are in contention for starting slots against Cowdenbeath.

Levein explained to the Evening News that he is already debating who deserves to play just two games into Hearts’ competitive campaign.

“I’m not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but I might make changes,” he said.

“There are certain people who I think have done well in general.

“Others have done well in spells, and some just haven’t done well at all. There are options so that gives me the opportunity to bring others in on Tuesday and see what they do.”

Kevin Nisbet opened the scoring for Raith early in the second half, and Hearts didn’t level until the 78th minute through Michael Smith’s 25-yard strike. They earned a bonus point via penalties but that did not satisfy Levein.

The 53-year-old insisted he should not have needed three young substitutes to lift performance levels against League One Raith.

“I shouldn’t have to rely on them. I should be bringing them on to experience that last half-hour of a match where we’re winning comfortably,” stated Levein.

“It’s pre-season and people take time to get up to speed. Some of our players aren’t quite up to speed yet. It wasn’t just that, for me. That can account for how slowly we moved the ball – maybe our touch didn’t help us to move it quicker.

“I felt we expected to win and I don’t like that. You have to earn the right to win every single match.

“We probably did enough to win, but we should have had the game won well and left ourselves in a much better position than we’re in just now.”

Kyle Lafferty was substituted moments after Raith scored having appeared to hurt his back in the first half. His fitness will be assessed today ahead of the Cowdenbeath match. Another striker, Uche Ikpeazu, missed the Raith game with a niggling injury but is expected to feature against Cowdenbeath.