BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
GARY LOCKE last night lauded the class and professionalism of Rudi Skacel after the Hearts legend climbed from the bench to rescue Raith Rovers’ Scottish Cup campaign.
The veteran Czech’s iconic status among the Jambos support was underlined when he was hailed with chants of ‘Rudi, Rudi’ from the sold-out away section as he entered the fray with 10 minutes to play – somewhat tempting fate.
And the hero of the 2012 Scottish Cup final, in which he scored a double for Hearts in a 5-1 demolition of Hibs, salvaged Rovers’ hopes in this season’s competition when his 90th minute volley from the edge of the box was turned in to the net by Declan McManus.
It cancelled out Jamie Walker’s first half opener and, given Mark Stewart missed an astonishing sitter, it could have been an even more satisfying afternoon for Locke’s men. As it is, the sides will do battle again on Wednesday night at Tynecastle.
“Everyone has seen Rudi Skacel over the years and, although he is getting on a bit now, he still has real quality,” said Locke. “I did not just bring him here because I’ve got a good relationship with him.
“He’s a great professional. We have a young squad and these lads look up to him and learn from him. Rudi is a real help to them on the training pitch and you saw what he was capable of yesterday with a great volley.
“I’m delighted for Declan as well. Things haven’t being going in for him lately, but he always gets into the box and is always looking to get on the end of things – and he got his reward.”
Ahead of his return to Tynecastle on Wednesday night, former Hearts captain, coach and manager Locke said: “If we go there and play they way we did on Sunday then we’ll cause them problems.
“I’m well aware of how it can be at [Tynecastle] – I’ve been on the end of it a few times! It’s a great place to play when things are going for you but when things are not going for you it can be difficult.
“So we’ve got to go with the same belief we had today and if we do that we’ll have a chance of winning.”