BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
CRAIG LEVEIN is adamant Joaquim Adao has already proved he will be a ‘big asset’ for Hearts after hailing the Angolan anchor man’s all-action debut against St Johnstone.
The 25-year-old, a deadline day loan signing from Sion, was immediately pitched into the starting line-up on Saturday and plainly relished the rough-and-tumble of Scottish football, crunching into tackles and showing composure in the heart of midfield.
Running on empty and walking a tightrope following a yellow card, Adao was ultimately replaced after 65 minutes and afforded a standing ovation for an impressive maiden outing.
“I was pleased with Joaquim,” said Levein. “He was starting to cramp up, which was understandable, but he held us together, along with the centre-backs and the goalkeeper, in the first half against St Johnstone.
“I thought he was really good. He read the game, anticipated and intercepted well and won a lot of tackles for us in midfield.
“His use of the ball was good, too. He had one pass where he put Kyle (Lafferty) in behind which showed real quality and that was probably the first time we had done that in the match.
“At the weekend, we didn’t really get going passing-wise today and a lot of players were slipping and it was a game not to make errors rather than play great football – but he showed he is going to be a big asset.”
Meanwhile, Levein has eased fears over the fitness of Connor Randall after the on-loan Liverpool was substituted at half-time against the Saints.
The 22-year-old was replaced by Michael Smith after toiling in the first period, struggling to cope with the pace of the game and the threat posed by Scott Tanser down the flank.
However, Levein has confirmed that the issue was nothing more serious than a slight stomach strain, allied with fatigue, following four appearances in the space of 10 days for the capital club.
Randall is expected to be available for selection when St Johnstone return to Tynecastle for the second time in seven days in Saturday’s Scottish Cup fifth round clash.
“I took Connor off because he looked exhausted,” added Levein. “He has been really good of late, but has played a lot of games. He had a bit of a problem with his stomach in the Motherwell game and didn’t feel 100 per cent and then played against Celtic the other night too.
“So for a young lad, who hasn’t had an awful lot of first-team football, he has played a lot of minutes in a very short period of time since coming back from the winter break – and I think he just hit a brick wall. I thought the best thing was to just give him a rest.”