FOOTBALL: Hearts and Kilmarnock left cold by league's decision

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The Independent Online
HEARTS AND Kilmarnock are determined to fight moves to make them play their CIS Insurance Cup quarter-final at Rugby Park on 30 December. Despite both clubs agreeing to a provisional date of 2 February for the tie, which has twice been postponed, the Scottish Football League has insisted the game must be played before the end of the year.

The SFL's preferred date falls inside the four-week winter break and would cause complications to the foreign players who are set to return home on 28 December.

Meanwhile, Hearts have major fitness doubts ahead of tomorrow's Edinburgh derby match with Hibernian. The Scotland striker Gary McSwegan is doubtful with a hamstring injury and his forward partner, Thomas Flogel, is also likely to miss out after damaging his foot against Kilmarnock two weeks ago.

Fitzroy Simpson is almost certain to make his debut following his arrival from Portsmouth, but neither Rob McKinnon nor Gary Locke, who both returned to training yesterday, are thought fit enough to take part. The goalkeeper, Gilles Rousset, has been suffering from flu, so Roddy McKenzie is set to continue in goal. Hearts have moved to solve their goalkeeping problems by signing Rangers' Finnish international Antti Niemi for pounds 400,000.

Manager Jim Jefferies recently recruited Norwegian keeper Roger Vaaler on loan with first-choice Gilles Rousset refusing to sign a new contract. The Frenchman can talk to other clubs in January and leave on a free transfer at the end of the season, and Jefferies felt he needed back-up.

Dirk Lehmann could return for Hibernian to partner Mixu Paatelainen as the manager, Alex McLeish, takes charge for his first derby match on enemy territory. After a decent return to the top division Hibernian have hit the comfort zone of mid-table, but McLeish is now looking for the Easter Road club to take the next step.