Hearts striker Witteveen says SPL step was too big

HEARTS striker David Witteveen has admitted he was out of his depth in the SPL.

However, the Austrian has endeavoured to use his loan spell at First Division Morton to try and ready himself for an assault on the Tynecastle first team next term.

He arrived last summer having spent the previous season with Wolfsberg Athletic Club St Andra in Austria's Landesliga (a regional league). But after a poor start to his Hearts career, he found himself out of favour under then manager Csaba Laszlo and hasn't had any game time since Jim Jefferies took over in January.

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With just five starts to his name all season, the 24-year-old jumped at the chance to join Morton on loan last month. Since arriving at Cappielow, he has caught the eye with a hat-trick against Queen of the South, while he won a penalty in last night's 1-1 draw with Ross County. So far things are going to plan as he aims to bounce back from his early-season struggles.

"I knew I had a lot to learn when I arrived at Hearts," he said. "The tempo and quality was higher and I knew I was not at that standard in the beginning. The change was very big from Austria. Everything is faster here. At first I was very nervous playing for Hearts. I played in Austria in front of 1,000 and 2,000 supporters, then I was in front of 16,000 or 18,000 in Edinburgh. I think it became a problem for me. Now I have settled down (at Morton] and I enjoy playing when the stadium is full. I think I am now at a level where I can score goals for Hearts."

Meanwhile, Dawid Kucharski and Ismael Bouzid stepped up their comeback bids in a closed-doors match against Falkirk at Tynecastle yesterday. The Pole lasted 80 minutes, while the Algerian played the full 90. Arvydas Novikovas and Calum Elliot, also looking to return from injury, both hit doubles in a 4-2 victory.