BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
ISMA GONCALVES will plead his case in person at Hampden on Thursday morning as the Hearts striker bids to ensure he is free to face Rangers.
The 26-year-old, who scored the only goal of the game against Kilmarnock on Saturday, was dismissed by referee Stephen Finnie at Rugby Park after allegedly lashing out at Kirk Broadfoot.
The former Gers defender had hauled him to the ground before pulling his hair and also received a red card following the skirmish.
Hearts wasted no time in launching their appeal and the case will be heard at the national stadium.
As well as attending personally, Goncalves will also be supported by Jambos assistant head coach Austin MacPhee, with the club confident their presentation will see the decision overturned.
Should Hearts lose their case, Goncalves will miss this weekend’s trip to Ibrox as well as the encounter against Motherwell at Fir Park on August 26 – robbing the Jambos of their most potent attacking threat, with 11 goals in 22 starts since joining the club in January.
Meanwhile, Hearts are sweating over the fitness of key trio Don Cowie, Ashley Smith-Brown and Jordan McGhee.
Cowie, 34, has not trained this week as he nurses a hamstring complaint. Interim head coach Jon Daly will analyse his condition over the next 48 hours, however he is considered a major doubt for the trip to Ibrox.
Young left-back Smith-Brown, who has been plagued by injury since joining on loan from Manchester City, is on the comeback trail, but faces a race against time to return to contention in time for this weekend.
He has made one appearance for Hearts in the Betfred Cup – being withdrawn after 28 minutes against Elgin City – and has missed both of the Premiership fixtures against Celtic and Kilmarnock due to a persistent ankle complaint.
McGhee, meanwhile, is also yet to make a league outing as he also battles a knock to the ankle.
The former Scotland under-21 skipper impressed in Hearts’ ill-fated Betfred Cup campaign after returning from last season’s loan spell with Middlesbrough and Daly is expected to also make a late decision on his fitness this week.