Hibs will be different against returning Lennon says Heckingbottom

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Hibernian boss, Paul Heckingbottom said he’s looking forward to meet his predecessor. (Credit: Luke Barry)

Hibernian manager, Paul Heckingbottom believes there will be enough differences tactically for a level playing field upon Neil Lennon’s return to Easter Road.

Celtic take on the Edinburgh club this Saturday in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup with new interim manager, Lennon.

The Northern Irishman left Hibs in January but made a surprise return to Scottish football earlier this week.

However, despite Lennon managing Hibs earlier this season, Heckingbottom said there won’t be a tactical advantage.

He said: “Well it is [his squad]. I’ve not signed a player.

“He is going to know the players but he’s not going to know what we ask them to do. For me it’s the same, for Neil [Lennon] is coming back somewhere he’s worked before which is always strange.

“It’ll different for Neil coming back to his old club which as I say is always a different sensation but for me nothing has changed.

“It’ll be nice to meet Neil [Lennon]. We’ve never met so it’ll be good to catch up after the game.”

It has been an eventful week for Celtic players and fans alike with the departure of Rodgers and his successor. But Heckingbottom insists it’ll be business as usual for the reigning Scottish Cup champions.

He added: “Obviously, Brendan [Rodgers] is gone. Big opportunity for Brendan and big opportunity for Neil now coming in as well. People just have to look forward.

 

“Celtic fans will be moving on now thinking about this trophy [Scottish Cup]. Football does that, everything is a big sensation one minute and then it just dies down and everyone gets on with it.”

The Hibees have won three out of three under new management with on-loan Reading player, Marc McNulty impressing the most. The Scotsman has scored six goals in four matches with his new club and his manager was impressed with his performances so far.

He said: “I’ve been really pleased with him.

“I can see him continually getting better because he’s not played much football and now he’s getting a run of games. He’s getting his fitness levels back up, his sharpness. We know he can score goals. I think he’ll be good for us between now and the end of the season.”

Partick Thistle v Hearts – Scottish Cup Preview

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Partick Thistle have had a troubling season since last year’s relegation to the Championship (Credit: David Ronney)

Hearts are aiming to reach the semi final of both domestic cups this season when they play Partick Thistle at Firhill Park on Monday evening. 

The team from the capital will be hoping to bounce back after suffering last minute heartbreak against Celtic, where they conceded a 90th minute goal to lose 2-1 after going down to ten men.

Craig Levein has seen his side go four league games without a win, the last time they came away with three points was at Kilmarnock at the start of February. Their form has seen them slip out of the title race and down to fifth place in the Premiership table, now only three points above rivals Hibs in the league.

The Jambos can take comfort from their battering of Auchinlech Talbot 4-0 in the previous round. They also impressed in a 1-0 win over Livingston in the 4th round.

Partick are one of three Championship teams left in the Scottish Cup battling for a place in the semi-final stage and will be hoping to add to Hearts’ recent poor run of form in the league.

Considering they are currently bottom of the Championship it has been a very mixed season for the team from Glasgow who remarkably find themselves in a Scottish Cup quarter final with a real shot at making it into the last four.

Thistle have shown similarly disappointing form in the league, and having lost their last two games, find themselves rock bottom of the league on goal difference. Whilst it is tight at the foot of the table with a point between 8th and 10th, Gary Caldwell’s men will be all to wary of relegation this late on in the season.

The sides last meeting was Scottish Premiership in 2014 at Tynecastle, and saw Partick Thistle come away with three points after a thrilling 4-2 win.

Both sides will be eager to win, but the pressure will be stacked on Hearts as they look for silverware in a season that looks to have fizzled out after such promise in the league.

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The trophy both clubs are vying for (Credit: Luke Barry)

 

 

Hibernian vs Celtic: Scottish Cup Preview

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Hibernian will be hoping to replicate the successful run in 2016 (Credit: David Ronney)

Hibernian welcome Scottish Cup reigning champions, Celtic to Easter Road this weekend, in what is shaping up to be a fascinating fixture following Neil Lennon’s appointment at the helm of the hoops.

Lennon left the Edinburgh club in Janurary and has made a swift return to Scottish football with Celtic only a month later.

The job of Celtic manager was vacated by Brendan Rodgers, who was tempted south to take over at Leicester City following the sacking of Claude Puel on Monday. This sacking was the start of the carousel of manager turnover this week.

Lennon will no doubt receive a mixed reception from the fans upon his return to Leith.

The Northern Irishman was in the dugout celebrating the last gasp winner against 10-man Hearts on Wednesday night that maintained his side’s eight-point lead at the top of the Premiership table ahead of Rangers in second place.

On the other hand, Hibs have enjoyed a good run of form under their new manager Paul Heckingbottom. The new boss has won three out of three since his arrival in mid February. This included an impressive win at St Johnstone on Wednesday night, with Marc McNulty grabbing the winner five minutes from time despite Hibernian going down to 10 men.

That win took them to within three points of fierce rivals Hearts who currently sit in fifth in the SPFL after a disappointing mid-season lull due a long string of injuries.

Heckingbottom will know beating Celtic will hand them a fantastic chance of silverware this season, which would be all too welcome considering their woes in the league this season.

Neil Lennon will be hoping to win a game at Easter Road, which incidentally is something his predecessor Brendan Rodgers never managed to do. A win is essential if the dream of the treble treble is to be kept alive.

The first match of the Scottish Cup weekend kicks off on Saturday at 5:15pm and is live on Premier Sports.

Thistle not to be taken lightly says Hearts’ Ikpeazu

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Hearts’ Uche Ikpeazu expects another tough Scottish Cup tie on Monday night (Credit: Luke Barry)

Heart of Midlothian forward, Uche Ikpeazu believes Partick Thistle are not a side to be taken lightly as the Edinburgh club travel to Firhill on Monday night.

After suffering relegation to the Championship last season, Gary Caldwell‘s side are at risk of déjà vu as they currently sit bottom of Scotland’s second tier.

However, the experience the side have against Premiership clubs is a reason they shouldn’t written off Ikpeazu insisted ahead of the clubs Scottish Cup quarter-final tie.

He said: “There’s always upsets in these cup games and everyone is probably expecting us to win and sometimes that can also work against you because people think ‘they’ve got to win anyway’. I believe if we do what we do, we’ll win. We just got to focus on ourselves and not the opposition.”


The former Watford player put in a terrific performance against Celtic midweek and just a month on from his return from injury looks closer to getting back to his best.

However, his injury woes earlier in the season kept him out of Hearts’ Betfred Cup semi-final, but the opportunity to guide the club into this stage in the Scottish Cup is something the 24-year-old relishes.

He added: “Watching it [league cup semi-final] was crazy. Seeing how many fans [there were] in the stadium, I would have loved to be a part of it.

“I want to be a part of that this time.

 

“It’s a massive game for the club. It’s come at the right time. I think that game [against Celtic] done me good and now I feel I’ve set the bar and need to perform at that level consistently now, and the team as well, because if we perform like that then we’ll do extremely well.”

 

Hearts can compete with everyone believes Levein

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Craig Levein was happy with performance against Celitc despite defeat (Credit: Luke Barry)

Heart of Midlothian manager Craig Levein insists his team can “compete with everyone” ahead of Monday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final against Partick Thistle.

Hearts lost 2-1 to Celtic at Tynecastle on Wednesday, but despite the result Levein is confident the Edinburgh side are back to their best.

“Yeah I think there was enough in the performance [against Celtic] which made me see we can compete with everybody again,” Levein said.

“We’ve got through troubles defensively with injuries yet again but we can cope with that.

 

“We got to the semi-final of the Betfred Cup earlier on in the season and we lost Steven Naismith in the first minute of the match or something like that which made it extremely difficult for us, but the experience of getting there was good.

“I think it’s a while since we’ve managed to get to two semi-finals so if we can do that and get the victory against Partick I think it puts us in a good position.”

Partick Thistle are currently bottom of the Scottish Championship but are a team Hearts know well having played in the Premiership with them last season.

Levein is aware of the challenge Gary Caldwell’s side will bring, promising he won’t take the Monday night’s match “lightly”.

He added: “It’s a good opportunity to get to a semi-final so we will be playing our best team.

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Hearts will not be taking Partick Thistle lightly says Levein (Credit: Luke Barry)

“The thing is we’re away from home, I’d rather be at home. It will be on us to take the game to Partick.

“Partick are fighting for their lives in the Championship and they’ve got some very experienced players who, if they’re on their game on Monday, have got really good quality.

“I still see Partick Thistle as a big, big club, and that in itself gives us warnings going into this game.

“Thinking just because they’re bottom of the Championship it’s a game we should win easily, that’s just not the case. We know enough about them not to take it too lightly.”

Uche Ikpeazu‘s recent return from a foot injury has been a big boost for Hearts, with the forward impressing on Wednesday against Celtic.

Levein has been impressed with the striker’s work rate and hopes he can be the key for Hearts’ success on Monday.

“I was worried about him [on Wednesday], he put in a lot of effort, a lot of running, and he’s not long back from injury.

“Uche was back to his best and hopefully he’s pretty much the same on Monday.”

The final match of the Scottish Cup weekend gets underway at 7:05pm and is live on BBC Scotland.

Hearts boss taking Auchinleck cup tie “very seriously”

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Levein is aware of Auchinleck’s threat (Credit: Luke Barry)

Heart of Midlothian Craig Levein has insisted he’s taking Sunday’s Scottish Cup fifth round tie against Auchinlek Talbot “very seriously.”

Auchinleck play in the junior leagues whilst Hearts are a Scottish Premiership side, but Levein was quick to dismiss talk that Auchinleck would be an easy opponent and insisted he’s treating the game like any other.

“It is a cup competition – only one of three major trophies available in this country – so of course we are taking it very seriously,” he said.

“I am looking forward to it. It is an unusual match to be pitched against a team in junior football. Having played in junior football myself I know that there is a lot of good players at that level.”

Hearts and Auchinleck have history, with the two clubs meeting in the same competition in 2012. Auchinleck won that tie 1-0, and Levein is more than aware that history could repeat itself.

 “I think that is exactly how the game could pan out if we do not move the ball quickly enough,” he commented.

“We are a level above where they are at the moment. But they are a team that find a way to win week in, week out and that is dangerous.

“Obviously there is no pressure on Auchinleck to get anything out of this game so perhaps that could be an advantage for them, but I have been to see their match last week and I know how they play so we don’t have any excuses to not be prepared for Sunday.”

Ikpeazu keen to make up for “lost time”

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Ikpeazu is delighted to get back playing after a five month injury (Credit: Luke Barry)

Heart of Midlothian striker Uche Ikpeazu is keen to make up “for lost time” after returning from a foot injury against Livingston on Wednesday night.

Ahead of Hearts’ Scottish Cup fifth round tie against Auchinleck Talbot, Ikpeazu admitted he is “focusing on having a good end to the season” after missing the last five months.

“As a footballer, nobody wants to be injured, but unfortunately it is part and parcel and we have had a few of them this season,” he said.

“It’s been tough but I’ve worked really hard, now I am focused on having a good end to the season and making up for lost time.”

“I’ve had a few operations in my time and obviously after it, the foot can take a lot of time to heal and even then it may not be the same. It is a testament to the hard work and the fantastic facilities at Hearts that have helped me make a strong recovery.”

 

Ikpeazu’s injury was one of several for Hearts this season, with defenders Christophe Berra and John Souttar also missing several months with their own woes.

“We had so many injuries that happened all of a sudden last year, we were all working together to get fit and encourage each other on a day to day basis. We are all back now and it helped that I wasn’t alone.

“It was frustrating being on the sidelines and seeing the team struggle, especially with the great start we had to the season.

“I still maintain that if we kept everyone fit we could be right up there, even without all our players we are still not far off and now it is about making the best of the end of the season.”

Ikpeazu admitted that the supporters “have been massive” to him during his time out, and helped keep him motivated.

“Coming on and hearing the cheers was really good and it motivates me. I know the best is yet to come.

“The fans have been massive to me, even when I was injured. A couple of days of my operation I was receiving messages saying they can’t wait to have me back, that means so much and it motivated me even more to get back quicker.”

Raith can be a “banana skin” for Hibs, says boss

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Raith Rovers are hoping to trip Hibs up tomorrow (Credit: Raith Rovers / Facebook)

Raith Rovers manager John McGlynn has insisted his side will go into tomorrow’s Scottish Cup fifth round tie against Hibernian with the belief they can win.

The Kirkcaldy outfit, who have never won the competition, are aiming to progress to the quarter-final stage with victory at Easter Road.

Speaking exclusively to EN4 News, McGlynn emphasised that his side can upset the odds when they visit Hibs.

“We’re big underdogs, I don’t think anyone outside of Kirkcaldy will give us much of a chance,” he said.

“But we have to believe that we can go there and cause an upset.

“We can play. Yes, it’s a step up and we’ll have to raise our game, but we can play. Hopefully we can go there and frustrate Hibs or make them a bit nervous.

“We want to stay in the game for as long as possible and hopefully nick a winner.”

Despite playing opposition that are two divisions higher, McGlynn is relaxed about the match because “all the pressure is on Hibs.”

“I would suggest that all the pressure is on Hibs because they are the bigger club and they’re at home to lower league opposition,” he said.

“They will fancy their chances against us and it would be a shock if they weren’t to go through. But as I said, we have to believe that we can go there and get a result. And with the romance of the cup, anything can happen.”

Hibs go into the match still without a permanent head coach following Neil Lennon’s departure by mutual consent last week, but McGlynn believes that the uncertainty surrounding the Edinburgh club won’t necessarily play into his side’s hands tomorrow.

 

“Can we use their uncertainty to our advantage? Possibly. But I think that their interim set-up has come in and done well so far.

“They’ve had two difficult games against Aberdeen and Celtic that not many teams would win over the course of the season. The managerial change hasn’t had that much of an impact on them so far, so do I think it’ll make any difference on Saturday? Probably not.”

To listen to an extended interview with John McGlynn, click here.

Auchinleck boss ready for tough Scottish Cup challenge against Hearts

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Auchinleck Talbot become only the second Junior side to reach the fifth round of the Scottish Cup. (Photo credit: Auchinleck Talbot)

Following one of the biggest upsets in Scottish Cup history, Auchinleck Talbot manager, Tommy Sloan says his side are ready for the next challenge as they face off against Premiership club, Hearts in the fifth round.

The Junior Cup holders made history after becoming only the second side in the history of the competition to reach the fifth round.

It was confirmed yesterday that the fixture will take place 10 February with a 3:00pm kick off.

The Beechwood Park side are unbeaten in 14 matches, winning their last nine and while Sloan’s side will have a couple of games to play before they make the journey to Edinburgh, the Talbot manager says he’s delighted with how the season has gone so far. He said: “We’ve had great results. Great run in the Senior Cup. We’re still in the Junior Cup, touch wood.”

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Tommy Sloan and Andy Leishman embrace after historic win. (Photo credit: Auchinleck Talbot)

The Edinburgh side have hosted the Ayrshire Juniors before back in 2012 but were the visitors were narrowly beat 1-0 with the winning strike coming late in the game.

However, when Sloan’s side return to Tynecastle in two weeks time he’ll be bringing along three returning players with him from that previous Scottish Cup defeat against the Jambos.

One of which is goalkeeeper, Andy Leishman who himself saved a penalty during that match seven years ago. The Talbot boss said he’s hoping that his side could replicate the level of performance displayed on that day. He added: “Andy [Leishman] has survived from that team. Gordon Pope, who scored the goal that was disallowed that day. Steven White is another one.

“Andy had a great day that day, saved the penalty and made numerous saves if I can remember right. Hopefully that stands us in good stead and the confidence we take out the Ayr match will hopefully help us at Tynecastle that day.

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This will be the second time in seven years these sides have faced in the Scottish Cup. (Photo credit: Hayden Barry)

“I think we’ll carry a threat up there. I think we’ve got players who can score goals no matter where we go.

“If you can keep winning it’ll give you confidence going into any match. I think that was one of the keys to beating Ayr because they hadn’t won for four or five weeks.

“When we go to Tynecastle we’ll need every advantage we can get because they are one of the best sides in Scotland.

“It’s a huge task for us and we’ll need to take any advantage we can get at all but I think we have players that can cause them problems.”

All it took was a Craig McCracken header to separate Auchinleck from their fellow Ayrshire opposition. Sloan said he was very impressed in the manner his side conducted themselves on the day. He said: “The players handled it really well. It’s really important to play the way you always play. I was saying to them to ‘Don’t try anything different. What’s gained you success is the things you do week in, week out’ and it was important to stress that to the players.

“It was real impressive to me.”

Auchinleck are now the second Junior side in Scottish Cup history to reach the fifth round, following Irvine Meadow’s success reaching this stage of the competition back in 2010.

Sloan, who has spent almost 16 years at the club, said the win against Ayr was ‘sweeter’ due to the quality of the team but doesn’t believe that this is the biggest upset in the history of the Scottish Cup. He added: “We knew Ayr have got a really good strong support again. They’ve been doing really well under Ian McCall, which makes it all so much sweeter.

“I thought it was a wee bit unfortunate we drew them at that time. We could have played them in a different year and it wouldn’t have been as strong a side. It’s sweeter because it’s a really good Ayr United side we beat.”

“Personally I don’t see it as the biggest upset because I know the strength in the Junior league. There’s really good players in the Juniors and a lot of them go onto be senior players.”

Auchinleck’s victory last weekend has drawn attention from fans across the country onto not only the side he manages but onto the Scottish Junior scene as well. Something he says he’s glad has now been recognised.  He said: “What it does is it helps the profile of the club. It’s a huge thing winning the Junior Cup, it’s the main thing each Junior side will go for every year but now we’ve got the qualification for the Senior Cup, you’ve got to try and make the impression and help your club.

“We’ve shown that the Junior sides could go into the Scottish leagues and certainly hold their own.

“It certainly should help promote the Juniors and let’s hope it does.

“Whoever it may be, I’ll always support the Junior sides in the Senior Cup because it does promote our game and we need that. There’s an old fashioned belief that it’s kit and rush, there’s a lot of tackles and fouls, and it’s more like roller ball. It certainly isn’t nowadays. It’s a changed game since I played it.”

FA Cup v Scottish Cup: Which is cheaper?

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Are Scottish Cup tickets too expensive? (Photo credit: Hayden Barry)

As cup fixtures concluded in Scotland for the most part last weekend, they get back underway south of the border this weekend round.

You may think despite English football generally being the more expensive choice when it comes to their league football, it’ll be cheaper to attend a Scottish Cup fixture. Surely?

Well surprisingly it’s actually the other way round. Some fans last weekend put their money where their mouth is and refused to cash in for the inflated prices for tickets to Scotland’s oldest competition.

Scotland’s fourth round replays take place next week where for example Dundee travel to Palmerston Park to play Championship outfit, Queen of the South.

Whereas in England, the FA cup fourth round gets underway this weekend where teams like Newcastle United face familiar opposition when they take on fellow Premier League side Watford at St James’ park.

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Auchinleck’s win over Ayr United was one of the biggest wins during the fourth round of the Scottish Cup this season. (Photo credit: Auchinleck Talbot)

With all due respect to all clubs involved, if you had to choose between the two matches then you’d likely go for the English encounter due to the quality of the two sides on offer. And you could be saving a few quid while you do.

Queen of the South are charging a standard admission of £19 for all home supporters. However, season ticket holders at Newcastle United are unable to use their usual seats for FA cup ties so the club has set a fair price of £10 for a general admission. Given the noticeable difference in the standard of football, many Scottish fans have sparked an outcry claiming their clubs are ignorant in their pricing of tickets.

Last week, Hibernian entertained Elgin City at Easter Road who were greeted with a less than half full stadium, struggling to just bring in over 7000 supporters. This poor attendance, in an otherwise passionate stadium, has been heavily linked with overpriced tickets. Even in league games, Scotland has seen an overall increase in season ticket prices since 2016. On average, the cheapest season ticket has risen from £293 in 2016 to just over £302 and with many clubs suffering from a low turnout the price is only set to increase.

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You’ll be cheaper going to St James’ Park (above) over Palmerston Park for a fourth round tie. (Photo credit: Jimmy McIntyre)

Ex-Motherwell and Queen of the South goalkeeper, Ross Hyslop, is now a season ticket holder at St James’ Park and claims that “Scottish football could learn a thing or two from England.”

The former professional argued his case. He said: “Cup ties always struggle to bring fans along to games simply because a lot of people view the league as much more important and much more competitive. So, what you do is you set fares at a low price so more people come along. Then you’ve not got whole stands with empty seats and there’s more support for the team but Scottish clubs always fail to see that. As a player I always hated playing in an empty ground.”

Most English teams were close to filling their stadium during the third round of the FA Cup, with Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium generating a higher figure in their tie against Championship side, Rotherham, than their average Premier League attendance record in the past season.

Hyslop believes this is solely down to ticket pricing, with the cheapest adult admission staying as low as £10.

He added: “People want to come out and support their team but unfortunately what you have now in the Premier League and in Scotland are absurd ticket prices. If you drive the price down then more people are going to come, you’re going to have a much more packed ground and essentially you’re going to make more money.”

Scottish football fans aren’t oblivious to the fact that money is tight in the professional scene, but some may feel like this time, clubs have just went the one step too far.

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