Hearts boss explains why he took David Vanecek off in first half against Dundee

Hearts manager Craig Levein labelled David Vanecek’s performance against Dundee “rubbish” and warned the new signing he faces arduous work to get fit enough for Scottish football.

Wednesday, 23rd January 2019, 10:42 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th January 2019, 10:49 am

Levein hauled the Czech forward off just 34 minutes into last night’s 2-1 defeat at Tynecastle Park. He was unimpressed by the player’s fitness levels and was also wary that he had been booked – and was therefore at risk of a red card. Vanecek only joined Hearts at the start of the month from FK Teplice after agreeing a pre-contract last July. He didn’t play at all during December before making his Tynecastle debut against Livingston on Sunday. He has now received a rude awakening to life in the Ladbrokes Premiership.

“I thought he was rubbish,” said Levein. “He wasn’t playing well, wasn’t holding the ball up. He then got himself booked and I thought it was last thing we needed – him to get involved in another challenge when he is already frustrated and for us to end up with ten men. I just bit the bullet and decided to take him off.”

Asked if he attributed Vanecek’s display to a lack of fitness, Levein replied: “Absolutely. He will need to do a hell of a lot of work to get himself back to where he should be, and that’s what he’s going to be doing. I accept he was playing two games in a short period of time after not playing for five weeks but it’s still not acceptable. He has a lot of work to do.”

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Hearts striker David Vanecek was withdrawn in the first half by Craig Levein
Hearts striker David Vanecek was withdrawn in the first half by Craig Levein

Levein was no happier with his team’s underwhelming performance as Dundee moved off the bottom of the league with a deserved win. Angolan defender Genseric Kusunga and English forward Andrew Nelson scored in each half, with Hearts equalising briefly when Olly Lee’s free-kick deflected off Jesse Curran and landed in the net near the break.

“We started the game terribly and normally this is a hard place to come,” said Levein. “Normally, we start the game at a good tempo, turn the opposition and get the crowd up.

“We gave up ten opportunities to pass the ball forward in the first ten minutes. We went sideways, went back, and that gave Dundee hope. If we do what we normally do, which is put the ball forward, it’s a different story.

“That was the most frustrating thing for me. In the first half, we were terrible. When we did go forward, we gave it away, fell over the ball, didn’t compete well enough. We were lucky to go in 1-1 at half-time.”

Dundee manager Jim McIntyre was understandably elated with his club’s second away win of the campaign. “It’s easy to say we wanted it more. You have to win your battles in every game,” he said.

“We stood up to a really strong physical team with talented players. Hearts have a bit of everything. They can win games ugly, can win with flair. To get anything here, we knew we had to compete. If we did that, I was confident we could get it into wider areas and cause problems.

“It was a hammer blow, the equaliser. You just don’t expect to concede that type of goal. They were annoyed with themselves at half-time, a good sign for me. We knew we had to do same again and more to get a result.

“Hearts put us under enormous pressure but our keeper didn’t have too many saves to make. We got a lot of defensive headers in and had a bit of luck as well.

“I don’t think we take anything from being off the bottom. It’s too easy to say that’s us on our way. We could be back on the bottom come Saturday. But it’s great to send the fans home happy. We’ve still got it all to do. That’s the way we must approach every game.”