Hearts made it into their second semi-final of the season with a 2-1 victory over a stubborn Partick Thistle side but Craig Levein hopes that next month’s last-four Scottish Cup tie against John Robertson’s Inverness Caledonian Thistle will simply be another stepping stone towards the ultimate aim of finishing the season with silverware.
“The semi-final is a huge thing for us. Getting there is good – but the final is the thing. To be there and win the cup,” said the Hearts manager after watching his team come from behind to win the quarter-final replay at Tynecastle. “It’s a great opportunity, without being disrespectful to Inverness, against a team from a lower league. We will be the bookies’ favourites. But up against Robbo, his team will be superbly well organised and they will have a go.”
It will be the Tynecastle club’s first Scottish Cup semi-final since they last won the trophy in 2012 but Levein believes a return to the national stadium marks another stage in the club’s road to recovery following administration, relegation and then promotion in recent seasons.
“It’s been a rocky road, the last four or five years, but they’ve been hugely significant in the history,” he said.
“Getting to a final would be superb for me, given my long, long association with the club. I don’t see this as a job; I see it as a labour of love. It means more to me than anything that this club should be successful.”
Although Uche Ikpeazu scored one of the goals that helped Hearts win the tie, he went on to miss a penalty in the second half and his manager said that if they win a spot-kick in the semi-finals, he won’t be allowed to take it.
“He had an agreement with Austin [MacPhee, assistant manager] that if he won a penalty he’d get to take it. That agreement has been ripped up now! Unless the other ten players get injured, I would doubt he’ll take another.”
There were two penalty claims at the other end in the dying minutes, making for a tense finale.
“I went and spoke to the ref and I got in trouble,” said Thistle manager Gary Caldwell. “He said the first one was no way a penalty, I’ve looked at it back – and he was right. The second one he saw contact but couldn’t be sure. I’ve looked at that one back and it’s a penalty. It’s disappointing but that’s football. Refs have a hard job to do. I’m just really proud of the team. They’ve stood toe-to toe with one of the best teams in the country for two games.”