Hearts’ Conor Washington racing to be fit for league opener after eye injury
Conor Washington is facing the prospect of being sidelined for Hearts’ Premiership opener at Aberdeen next weekend.
The recently-recruited Northern Ireland striker is out of Saturday’s Betfred Cup match away to East Fife after sustaining an eye injury in Wednesday’s victory over a Stenhousemuir.
The effects of the problem could linger long enough to rule Washington out of next Sunday’s trip to Pittodrie.
“We have been told two weeks, but we will see how it goes,” said the manager. “The ball hit him in the eye before he had the chance to close his eye so there was a little bit of blood and some swelling of the eyelid.”
Asked specifically about Washington’s chances of being available for the Aberdeen match, Levein said: “We will see how it goes. We have to let the swelling go down. He went to hospital to see the specialist and the word I got was a couple of weeks. He will definitely miss this weekend and we will see how he progresses next week.”
Washington has started all three of Hearts’ Betfred Cup matches so far as Levein tries to sharpen him up following a sustained period of not playing regularly at his previous clubs. Despite being unable to play, Washington will still be able to work on his fitness in the coming days. “I have been playing him to get his fitness levels up and the injury won’t affect his ability to run so Mikey Williams will do some stuff with him over the next week to ten days, sort of a mini pre-season,” said Levein.
Uche Ikpeazu will start in place of Washington against East Fife today and Levein is eager to see his attackers start to capitalise on the chances coming their way after spurning a host of opportunities in their previous three matches. A draw at Bayview will guarantee that Hearts finish top of Group A, but the manager wants to finish as one of the four best-performing group winners in order to ensure they are seeded for the next round and avoid being drawn against the likes of Rangers, Celtic, Aberdeen or Kilmarnock. Goal difference could be decisive in that regard. “Depending what stats you use, we have had between 65-75 chances in the last three matches and we scored five goals! But if we can keep the chances rate at that level then I am confident that we can hit a pretty good streak of scoring. We have created a helluva lot of different types of play but that is masked by the fact we have struggled to put the ball in the net.
“I just laughed the other night at one particular passage of play when we had four shots all within the penalty box and they were either saved or blocked on the line, and that just kind of summed it up, but that happens. What we can do in training is try to replicate the situations where we have created chances in matches and try to work on it so we get the ball in the net.
“On Thursday (at training) we weren’t knocking them in and I lost the plot with them a wee bit. It is a focus thing and it has to be taken seriously because when you create that amount of chances but don’t score then we need to address that. “Obviously, there has been some brilliant goalkeeping, I accept that, the Dundee United keeper was fantastic so was the lad who is on loan from Hibs at Cowdenbeath and again, the other night, the Stenhousemuir keeper was fantastic. I don’t mind that, it is when we don’t find the target, that’s the ones I get frustrated with.”