Scottish Football: Levein's return left in doubt

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The Hearts defender, Craig Levein - banned for 10 matches for fighting with his team-mate, Graeme Hogg, during a pre-season friendly -could make a short-lived return to league football. Levein is available for the Edinburgh derby against Hibernia n at Tynecastle tonight, but the player is already on the verge of another two-match ban.

Levein collected 12 disciplinary points for "violent conduct" in the friendly at Raith Rovers, as well as serving a one-match automatic ban at the time. So a single yellow card in competitive football this season has lifted him to 15 points, one short ofsurpassing the Scottish Football Association threshold to incur another suspension.

Levein, however, may have to wait for his first-team come-back. Hearts collected seven points from a possible nine against Motherwell, Celtic and Dundee United last week and their manager, Tommy McLean, may decide not to change a winning team.

"Everybody seems to be assuming that Craig will be back, but that may not be the case," McLean said. "He's been out for 10 weeks and has had no practice matches because of the weather. The defence has been playing well."

That back four includes Willie Jamieson, Dave McPherson and Neil Berry, whose fitness could hold the key to Levein's return. Berry has an ankle knock, but is improving and should be fit.

Jamieson, a recent signing from Partick Thistle, impressed with a goal against Dundee United at the weekend and wants to play against his old club: Jamieson's last game for Hibernian came against Hearts almost 10 years ago.

A victory for Hearts would lift them to within two points of second-placed Hibernian. They will be hampered by the absence of Scott Leitch, however, while there are doubts about Kevin Thomas and John Colquhoun.

Hibernian themselves have an injury doubt over their top-scorer, Michael O'Neill, a target for Leicester last week. Their manager, Alex Miller, said: "We'll leave the decision on him until the last minute. He's an important player for us."

After Friday's goalless draw at Motherwell, Hibernian must improve on their woeful away record. They have scored a mere four goals away from Easter Road in the league this season. A win would lift Hibernian to within 11 points of the leaders, Rangers.

The Kilmarnock defender, Mark Skilling, has escaped an SFA censure for an alleged gesture towards the Celtic striker, Pierre van Hooijdonk, on Saturday. Skilling was adjudged to have fouled the Dutchman in an incident which led to Celtic's last-minute penalty winner in a 2-1 victory at Hampden.

The Kilmarnock player was booked for dissent after disputing decision of the the Edinburgh referee, Bill Crombie. And, as the players left the field, Skilling is alleged to have greeted Van Hooijdonk's offer to shake hands with a hand gesture.

Yesterday the SFA confirmed that the referee's report into the fixture had arrived at its Glasgow offices. "There is no mention of any incident after the final whistle," a spokesman said.

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