Hearts talking point: Did David Vanecek impress on return to starting XI?

It was fitting that David Vanecek's first Hearts start since January 23 came against Dundee. After all, it was against the Dens Park side when he was last selected in the Jambos starting XI.

Saturday, 9th March 2019, 5:28 pm
Updated Saturday, 9th March 2019, 5:42 pm
David Vanecek made his first start for Hearts since January 23. Pic: SNS
David Vanecek made his first start for Hearts since January 23. Pic: SNS

That night did not go too well for the giant Czech striker. Displaying a lacklustre first touch and poor movement, he was booked and then hooked after just 34 minutes. Hearts went on to lose the game 2-1, Tynecastle manager Craig Levein lambasted the player's fitness and performance, and he was banished to reserve-team football, bar a couple of cameos off the bench.

In some respects, Vanecek is a victim of his own success. It's rare Scottish clubs sign pre-contracts for a January arrival. We had five months to wait for him. In that period, he kept playing - and scoring - for Teplice before moving to Scotland. He was active on Instagram, promising the Hearts fans he would hit the ground running. He was coming through the door at at time when Hearts' striking options were limited. Steven Naismith and Uche Ikpeazu were injured. Steven MacLean's goals were drying up. Circumstance was a big an enemy as anything else.

Levein, however, likes the 28-year-old. He wanted him in the summer, but had to wait. It was Vanecek's birthday on Saturday and his present from the manager was 66 minutes on the pitch.

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Granted, this was a tough match to play in. Hearts in a bit of rut, the team low on confidence and without talisman Steven Naismith. Vanecek started in a two-pronged attack alongside Ikpeazu. A couple of battering rams that would worry, physically at least, most defences.

Vanecek did not see a lot of the ball. He had a couple of nice flicks. He's got a lovely first touch. He can pick out team-mates. Perhaps though, him and Ikpeazu are too similar, looking to do the same job. Neither man likes getting in behind defences. Vanecek is mobile for such a huge frame, but he's doesn't play on the shoulder of defenders. He links up and needs crosses to attack.

The game passed him by at points, and he tired, which is natural considering his spell on the sidelines. He does look trimmer than a month ago and he worked like a trojan. It just didn't fall for him at Dens Park. He didn't have a shot at goal and, in all honesty, you wouldn't have backed him to find the net if he'd stayed on for the full 90 minutes.

It's likely he'll get a second bite at the cherry on Tuesday against Partick, though. Craig Wighton, who replaced him, did little either, bar one promising run. Longer-term, he'll need a goal to solidify his case for a regular starting spot and boost his confidence. There is a player in there, but it may take more time to come to the surface, and whether it comes alongside Ikpeazu remains to be seen.