Hearts trio vying to replace Uche Ikpeazu for Rangers trip

David Vanecek is in better shape, according to Hearts manager Craig Levein
David Vanecek is in better shape, according to Hearts manager Craig Levein
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Aidan Keena, David Vanecek and Steven MacLean are vying to deputise for Hearts striker Uche Ikpeazu against Rangers at Ibrox tonight.

Ikpeazu is missing on medical grounds after banging his head against Aberdeen last weekend but should be fit for Saturday’s Edinburgh derby with Hibs at Tynecastle Park.

Manager Craig Levein must decide between Keena’s goal threat, Vanecek’s presence or MacLean’s craft up front for this evening’s trip to Glasgow. The Irishman and the Scot were unused substitutes in the 2-1 win over Aberdeen, with Vanecek left out of the 18-man squad.

Levein admitted relief that Ikpeazu wasn’t seriously injured in the aerial challenge with Dominic Ball which forced him off with suspected concussion. He gave nothing away about his contingency plan for Ibrox, other than to say Vanecek, pictured, is in good shape.

“I think he’s certainly in a better place than he has been in a while. We’ll see,” remarked Levein. “It is disappointing not to have Uche in the team.

“The upside, I suppose, is he’ll be fresh going into the weekend. He does affect the game for us.

“I spoke to him on Sunday morning and he was in good form. We’ve followed all the protocols. He won’t make tonight’s game but he should be okay for Saturday.

“There’s a baseline test he has to pass within 24 hours. He passed that with flying colours. There are some physical tests this week as well. He’s got to pass those but he’s fine.

“It’s a relief that it’s not too serious. Any time there is a head knock, you are concerned. The medical team are right on this now and it’s taken right out of my hands. So, as much as I want the player to play, it’s taken completely out of my hands – which I’m quite comfortable with.”

Levein added that he has no issue with Hearts being labelled a “big, physical team” by the Rangers manager Steven Gerrard. “That doesn’t bother me in the slightest,” he replied. “We are what we are. People can look at us and make a judgment.

“For me, it’s not important as long as we perform to a certain level and give ourselves a chance of winning. How you win isn’t important sometimes.”