Ryan Stevenson insists derby challenge on Hibs captain was ‘hard but fair’

Ryan Stevenson: Not cautioned
Ryan Stevenson: Not cautioned
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HEARTS midfielder Ryan Stevenson has insisted that there was no malicious intent in his tackle which injured Hibernian 
captain James McPake during Thursday night’s Edinburgh derby.

Stevenson was not cautioned for the incident, but could face disciplinary action if Vincent Lunny, the SFA’s compliance 
officer, decides there is a case to answer. Lunny has until 5pm on Monday to issue a notice of complaint, but can only do so if match referee Willie Collum did not discipline Stevenson in any way.

According to an SFA spokesman, although a throw-in was awarded after the tackle, that does not necessarily mean Collum took no action. Even an informal warning to Stevenson would be enough to prevent the compliance officer from taking up the case.

“It was 50-50 and the ball was there to be won,” Stevenson said yesterday. “I went in hard, but in my mind I went in fair, too.

“It may not look great in slow motion, but my only intention was to win the ball, nothing else. It was a typical Edinburgh derby with hard tackles going in all over the pitch, from both sets of players.

“Some challenges have been highlighted and others forgotten about, but that’s all part and parcel of football. I’ll always give 100 per cent every week in a Hearts shirt, be it tracking back to defend, bursting forward to shoot or trying to win possession.”

Stevenson was also involved in one of the closest moments either team came to breaking the deadlock in the goalless draw, failing to score after Hibs keeper Ben Williams had diverted the ball into his path. Hearts had the bulk of possession for long stretches of the second half and he suggested his team had done enough to deserve all three points. “I thought we were desperately unlucky not to take three points last night,” he said on the club’s website. “I felt we put in a good shift, a performance that was worthy of a win.

“When you consider the changes the gaffer was forced into, losing the services of Ryan McGowan and Andrew Webster, he had to shift it around a bit and I thought that the whole team adapted very well. It was a game I think we pretty much dominated and on another day Jason Holt’s shot after rounding the Hibs keeper wouldn’t have been blocked on the line, and John Sutton’s last-minute header would’ve crept in under the crossbar instead of rattling off of it.

“Those are the breaks that we’re perhaps not getting at the moment, but nobody can question the team’s effort or desire to win that game. We went out there to win and unfortunately we just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.”

Webster was ruled out by flu, while McGowan is in China negotiating a move to Shandong Luneng Taishan. Darren Barr replaced the Australian, whose younger brother, Dylan, took over from Webster. “To play with a makeshift defence of sorts, and keep a clean sheet against the threat of Leigh Griffiths and Eoin Doyle, was a great achievement,” Stevenson added.

“Ryan McGowan has shown just how valuable a player he is to this club over the past 
18 months. It will be a blow to lose him if he does go to China, but that’s football. If the deal’s good for both player and club then it makes sense. If he goes then I wish him well.

“The upside is that a space opens up in the first team for someone else to come through. We’ve got some tremendous young players here at Hearts, just look at last night’s bench. All of those guys aren’t just young, but they’re talented as well.

“They’re the future of this club and already they’re providing us with a strong squad. Guys like me will help to bring them through, but supporters should rest easy in the knowledge that if players do go, we’ve got the 
talent in waiting to come into the first team.”

Meanwhile, back-up keeper Peter Enckelman has left Tynecastle at the conclusion of his short-term contract. The Finnish international was signed on a six-month deal last August because of injury to Mark Ridgers, who is now ready to resume as Jamie MacDonald’s understudy. Enckelman, who was on the bench on Thursday, made one appearance for Hearts during his stay at the club, coming on as a substitute after MacDonald was injured during the 1-0 defeat at Celtic in October. Hearts’ 18-year-old goalkeeper Jack Hamilton has had his loan at Forfar 
extended until 12 February.