John Robertson has ordered his Caley Thistle squad to put Hearts’ points-deduction out of their minds and focus on beating Raith Rovers tonight.
The former Tynecastle striker refused to wade into the controversy surrounding his group rivals’ mistaken fielding of an ineligible player in Wednesday’s victory against Cove Rangers.
Teenager Andrew Irving was brought on in the 65th-minute with chief executive Ann Budge later confessing to embarrassment at the club’s failure to register the player’s new deal, which he signed in January.
They were docked two points and fined £10,000, with £8,000 suspended until the end of next season, at an SPFL tribunal yesterday.
Robertson admitted the furore had proven a distraction to his team after two opening Betfred Cup victories, but stressed the SPFL’s judgement last night would have no bearing on his team’s approach to Raith’s visit.
He said: “It has been a slight distraction because of the uncertainty, but it’s nothing we can dwell on.
“From the start, we’ve only looked at our fixtures and we’re going to concentrate, totally, on Raith Rovers. What happened (to Hearts) happened.
“We have our own views on it, privately, but the players were told this morning not to think about anything but earning three points against Raith Rovers and turning in a good, strong performance.
“That’s the part of it that’s in our own hands – and that’s exactly what we intend to do tomorrow night.”
With his own team idle on Saturday, Robertson watched Raith hold Hearts to a 1-1 draw on Saturday. Aware of the Kirkcaldy club’s threats, Robertson wants a sharp, high-tempo performance from his players in front of the home crowd.
He said: “It was good for the lads to get a wee bit of a rest at the weekend. I went down on Saturday and watched Raith Rovers. They were very well organised and kept Hearts at bay. They had a couple of chances to stretch their lead before they had to really dig in.
“Their backs were to the wall for the last 20 minutes, as you’d expect, but they gave their manager absolutely everything. That’s what we’re looking for from our players tomorrow night. We need the players to be nice and sharp, get the ball moving quickly and take their chances when they come.
“At the outset of this group, we looked at how the fixtures fell and felt we could get into a position where we could go to Tynecastle with something to play for. That hasn’t changed. A victory tomorrow would mean if we get something in Edinburgh we’ll be into the next round.
“We wanted to come into this game with six points and look for the three points. That’s the target we’ve set ourselves.”
Robertson’s squad has one or two knocks but attacker Daniel Mackay returns after a thigh strain. New signing Sean Welsh is suspended for two matches after a red card in the friendly against Brora Rangers.