Craig Levein defends Uche Ikpeazu from Gary Caldwell criticism
Hearts manager Craig Levein has suggested Partick Thistle counterpart Gary Caldwell was ‘talking rubbish’ with his complaints over Uche Ikpeazu’s penalty award.
Jags boss Caldwell accused the Jambos striker of falling over ‘like my little girl in the park’ after he won a spot-kick following a tangle with Blair Spittal during Tuesday’s William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final replay.
But Levein – whose side claimed a 2-1 win to set up a semi-final showdown with Inverness – leapt to the defence of his forward as he shrugged off the simulation storm.
And the Tynecastle boss insisted it is no wonder Ikpeazu sometimes finds himself on the deck given some of the heavy challenges he has had to put up with since making his move north from Cambridge last summer.
‘Managers sometimes talk rubbish,’ said Levein before joking: ‘I include myself in that.
‘ He added: ‘Uche is a significant player for us.
He doesn’t half get some rough treatment.
Just because he’s a big guy it doesn’t mean it’s OK to have a pop at him.
‘To be fair he’s handled it well.
I don’t know if I’d have been quite as calm under the provocation he gets.
‘He gets fouled a lot.
People are trying to to prove they’re stronger than him – but it’s not very easy because he is such an athlete.
He’s a strong boy.
‘He’s new in the league and referees are trying to work him out.
But you shouldn’t be penalised for being stronger than somebody.
He quite often does.
‘He gets a lot of rough treatment and the conclusion to that is you go to ground.
But I don’t think he should be getting penalised for that.
‘ Meanwhile, Levein confirmed reports Hearts hope to land Craig Halkett on a pre-contract this summer as he admitted he was ‘interested’ in the Livingston defender.
He also broke the news that Clevid Dikamona had signed a one-year contract extension that ties him to the club until the summer of 2020.
And the Congolese defender told the Hearts website: ‘I’m very happy because I have another year to show that I can bring something to this team.
‘Of course, I have enjoyed my time at Hearts so far.
Every year, since I started playing football, I have aimed to play at a higher level and now I am at a big club in Hearts.
‘We are playing for the top spots in the league, Europe and a cup final and I hope that next season we can play for even more.
‘ There was further good news for Levein after surgeons confirmed Steven Naismith should be back in a Hearts shirt before the end of the season after a successful knee operation on Monday.
‘It went very well,’ said the Hearts boss ahead of Saturday’s Hamilton trip.
‘I think there’s a decent chance he’ll play again before the end of the season.
‘When you have a player of his calibre injured it obviously does have an effect on the team.
‘So it will be a boost to have him back for the run in.
I don’t know exactly when he’ll be back but he did recover quickly the last time he was out.’