he club had until 3pm yesterday to respond to the “offer” of a two-match ban after the SFA’s compliance officer charged McGowan with a breach of Rule 200 (Violent Conduct). But yesterday manager Paulo Sergio said it made sense to accept the offer.
That means McGowan will miss today’s Scottish Cup match against Auchinleck Talbot as well as next week’s league game against St Mirren. Contesting the ban would have enabled McGowan to play today, but if the two-match suspension had then been upheld he could have missed two league games.
“I have to try to be clever,” Sergio said. “It’s better for me to accept [the ban] than to fight.
“I think everybody understands why. He only misses one SPL game. That doesn’t mean I agree.”
A later statement on the Hearts website backed up the manager’s argument. “We reluctantly agree to the offer of a two-match fixed suspension,” it said. “We do not, however, believe the player acted in a malicious or violent way in the incident, and this acceptance does not constitute an admission of guilt on his part.”
McGowan went unpunished by the referee on Monday after he pushed his head into Sproule’s stomach after being fouled by the Hibs player. Hearts had already been awarded a free-kick.
With Danny Grainger still out injured, McGowan’s absence leaves Hearts without their two recognised left-backs for today’s cup match. Sergio could decide to play a more attacking player such as Rudi Skacel or Andrew Driver in the back four, or he may prefer to shuffle his defence by moving Jamie Hamill to left-back and starting Darren Barr on the right.
Sergio insisted yesterday that he would treat the Junior team with respect, resting only players who had been carrying injuries. “It doesn’t matter the name of our opponents, I want my players to play like they are playing against Celtic or Rangers,” he said. “They have to show me they want to be on the pitch next weekend too. I have some players who are struggling with physical problems. Maybe I will try to save some of them. All the others who are ready are going to be on the pitch.”