Hearts boss admits inclusion of pair shows cup final places are up for grabs

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Hearts manager Craig Levein admits he hopes Harry Cochrane and Connor Smith’s surprise inclusion in Sunday’s Edinburgh derby acts as a Scottish Cup final warning to his players.

Smith was handed his full debut at Easter Road at just 17-years of age and began the Hibs clash in midfield alongside Cochrane, 18, who was making only his fourth start of an injury-hampered campaign.

The teenagers impressed in the 1-1 before being replaced in the second half as their lack of first team fitness caught up with them.

Levein decided to change his team following three straight Premiership losses and the former Scotland manager believes that the appearance of the youngsters can give the rest of the squad a jolt ahead of the May 25 final with Celtic.

Levein said: “Hopefully putting Harry and Connor into the team has people on their toes because there are only 11 spaces in the team for the cup final and they two might stake a claim as well.

“Everybody who is fit and available will be in contention.

“I thought they did well considering the size of the game.

“They showed enough, as I think everyone would agree, to see that in time they’re going to be wonderful players for Hearts – so all credit to them.

“Connor showed some touches that tell us he’s going to be a really good player for us in the future. 

“He was starting to get cramp in his hamstrings and Harry tired as well.”

Levein, meanwhile, insists Cochrane can now consider himself as a recognised first team player after reaching an appearance milestone against their city counterparts at the weekend.

Cochrane made his debut in September 2017 against Dundee as a 16-year-old but the Scotland Under-19 internationalist has been plagued by five separate injuries this term, restricting him to a total of six outings so far.

Graduation

Levein, whose side welcome Kilmarnock this Saturday, added: “Harry Cochrane reached his 30th appearance on Sunday so he gets a place in the home changing room and that’s good for him.”

Levein, meanwhile, hopes the Hibs stalemate is a sign that Hearts can return to form after their recent defeat to Hibs at Tynecastle was sandwiched by losses to Rangers.

He added: “Sunday was better than last week (the 3-1 defeat to Rangers) and that’s a big step forward.

“Our resilience was much better and I know we can improve. We’ll see what happens next week.

“I feel we have much more to come and hopefully we can take confidence from that.”

 
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