BY DARREN JOHNSTONE – Capital City Press
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson has urged the club’s supporters to make Tynecastle as intimidating as possible for Celtic on Wednesday night.
The Gorgie outfit have cut Celtic’s usual allocation to just 1,426 for the League Cup clash in the hope that more Hearts fans will attend the quarter-final clash.
Just over 6,000 watched Neilson’s side beat Arbroath in the first round in July, while Hearts were on their travels for victories over Forfar and Kilmarnock in the competition.
The Hearts-Celtic fixture has been plagued by crowd trouble in the past and as recently as last December Hearts owner Ann Budge criticised the behaviour of fans from both clubs after watching her team lose a Scottish Cup match.
Neilson, whose side beat Ross County 2-0 on Saturday, hopes the supporters behave themselves but admits his side’s chances of causing an upset can be bolstered by the home fans creating a hostile atmosphere.
He said: “A big home crowd makes a huge difference. Celtic’s allocation has been cut from what it generally is in the past so we need to make sure we sell-out and really make it a tough environment to come to.
“The players need their backing, they really do. It’s going to be a really tough game.
“People talk about Celtic having a difficult start to the season but they’re still a top team with top players and we have to make sure we make it as intimidating as possible for them.”
Neilson, meanwhile, has been handed a huge boost ahead of Wednesday’s encounter after learning that stand-in captain Blazej Augustyn will be available – despite being sent off on Saturday.
The central defender was shown a straight red card in the 48th minute of the 2-0 victory over Ross County after pulling back Liam Boyce as the striker bore down on goal.
Referee Alan Muir decided that the County marksman was denied an obvious goal scoring opportunity.
Neilson admitted after the match that the club would check with the Scottish FA whether the Pole would have to serve the one-match ban in the cup game or in the league.
But he has now been told that the centre-half will be eligible for the quarter-final clash, with the suspension to be served in Saturday’s trip to Partick Thistle.
Augustyn’s availability is a welcome fillip for Neilson, with defenders Alim Ozturk and Juwon Oshaniwa currently sidelined through injury.
Augustyn tweeted: “The card that I was shown for a tactical foul eliminates me from one league match, so I can play in the League Cup against Celtic.”