Hearts lose Ryan Stevenson for semi-final as ban is upheld

RYAN Stevenson has said it is “a massive blow” to be ruled out of Hearts’ League Cup semi-final against Inverness Caley Thistle later this month as a result of suspension.

• Stevenson will miss games against Celtic and Inverness

• Midfielder says “It’s a man’s game”

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The midfielder’s appeal against a two-match ban was rejected today at an SFA hearing, meaning he is also ruled out of his club’s first league game after the SPL’s mini-break, against Celtic in Glasgow a week tomorrow.

Stevenson was offered the ban after SFA compliance officer Vincent Lunny said that his challenge on Hibernian captain James McPake in last week’s Edinburgh derby constituted serious foul play. Match referee Willie Collum took no disciplinary action at the time, leaving Lunny free to issue a notice of complaint.

Hearts appealed on Tuesday under the governing body’s new fast-track procedure. Although that appeal was unsuccessful, Stevenson insisted that his tackle on McPake had been fair.

“The ball was there to be won,” he said. “I certainly didn’t go in to do James McPake.

“It was two grown men going for a tackle. It’s a man’s game, but rules are harsher these days.

“I didn’t think it warranted a two-match ban, so I am disappointed. It’s a massive blow to miss the semi-final because I have never played in one before.

“However, the decision has been made and I just need to accept it. I’m sure whoever replaces me in the team will do well.”

Hearts manager John McGlynn agreed that the club now had to draw a line under the issue and prepare for both the Celtic match and the 26 January semi-final at Easter Road without Stevenson. “We just have to accept the decision, move on and plan accordingly for our next two games without Ryan,” he said.

Stevenson’s action in the incident involving McPake was heavily criticised by Hibs player Ryan McGivern and manager Pat Fenlon immediately after last week’s goalless draw at Tynecastle. “It was a disgusting tackle,” on-loan defender McGivern said. “I’ve seen it back on the replay and the ref has said the two boys were going for it. But, if you see it back on the TV, Stevenson has had a little look and he’s going to try and do him. It’s definitely a red-card tackle.”

Fenlon called it “a shocking tackle” and continued: “He had a look first before he left the ground. We’re disappointed with that.”

McPake was able to continue after treatment, and play resumed with a throw-in, as Collum had seen no foul play from either the Hibs centre-half or his adversary. Stevenson later missed one of the best chances to end the stalemate when he was unable to find the target after Hibs goalkeeper Ben

Williams had blocked an attempt by Dylan McGowan.

McPake was involved in another controversial first-half incident when he appeared to impede Scott Robinson in the Hibs penalty area. Play was allowed to continue, and Hearts winger Andrew Driver steered a shot wide of the far post.