HEARTS captain Lawrence Shankland yesterday called for greater clarity on VAR in the wake of the controversial red card Alex Cochrane received at Tynecastle on Sunday as he targeted a late push for third spot.

Hearts fans, players and coaching staff were incensed when referee Nick Walsh sent off left back Cochrane just before half-time for pulling down Celtic winger Daizen Maeda in a cinch Premiership game in Gorgie at the weekend.

The match official had initially shown the English defender a yellow card for his foul – but he was urged to look back at the incident on the pitchside monitor by his VAR colleague Willie Collum and upgraded it to a red after doing so. 

Steven Naismith’s side had dominated Ange Postecoglou’s team up until that point – but they conceded goals to Kyogo Furuhashi and Oh Hyeon-gyu in the second-half after being reduced to 10 men and lost 2-0.

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Shankland admitted that Hearts should have been able to get a result without Cochrane. However, he feels there is still confusion over how and when the new technology can be used and would like there to be more clarity.

“I was surprised it got checked initially,” he said. “I thought he would maybe have checked it and stuck with his decision. When he gave him the yellow card, I thought it was dealt with.

“When I went to spoke to the referee he said there was no defender there covering. I took his word for it at the time.

“There hasn’t been much clarity in terms of those things and that is why there has been hiccups during the season. What is an obvious mistake and what isn’t? There is no real definition to that.

“But if they felt they it needed to get checked it is what it is, we can’t really control that. The red card happened.

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“After that we still played well at times. Defensively, we had to be really disciplined and we were. We tried to frustrate them, but they made their breakthrough and went on and got their second.”

The 27-year-old, who has netted 25 goals in the 2022/23 campaign, was pleased with the Hearts performance against Celtic despite the result and is confident they can come from behind Aberdeen and secure third place in the Premiership if they replicate it in their final four games.

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“All the games after the split are huge,” he said. “We know the importance of trying to get points on the board. Aberdeen are obviously above us. We need to go and pick up as many points as we can in the next four games, not just the next two. We will see where we end up.

“If we don’t get third we will feel like we have slipped up because of the situation we were in. What I will say is that before the World Cup we were eight points behind. It has been kind of up and down.

“Over the course of the season, when we have finished all the fixtures, if we have not finished third then we have not been good enough for the full season. It will not come down to a certain point or a certain game. We will look at the whole season.

“But we are still hopeful, we believe in what we are doing and obviously we have got important games coming up.”

Shankland added: “Everything we worked on during the week was going well on Sunday – and still went well after we got the red. The boys stood up to it. There are ways to win games and Sunday was probably one of the more acceptable ones.

“Listen, we had a wee bad run and it cost us our position there. So that is all it takes. It can happen quite quick. Our performances have been decent in the last couple of games. We can build on that, take confidence from that, just look to get points on the board and see where we end up. We just need to concentrate on our performances and trying to get wins.”