Hearts boss Craig Levein says the Jambos have to accept whatever punishment they are given after admitting to fielding an ineligible player against Cove Rangers.
Hearts released a statement on Thursday night expressing their “embarrassment” after bringing on the unregistered Andrew Irving in the second half of the 2-1 Betfred Cup win.
They will face a Scottish Professional Football League disciplinary hearing on Monday where they will learn their fate, and could potentially be docked points for what Levein has described as an administrative error.
“It’s an unfortunate situation and I don’t think in my whole time in football I’ve been involved in a situation like this,” he said. “They do happen, and it was just an administrative error back in January.
“We have processes in place which are fairly robust and we have missed something in January, which is highly unusual.”
Chairwoman Ann Budge said in a statement that the club had not uploaded the details of a new contract for Irving to the Scottish Football Association registration system and following the expiration of his previous deal in June it left him unregistered.
“I don’t know if the club has ever been involved in anything like this,” Levein admitted.
“It’s not something we make a habit of and I don’t know how the hearing will go or the possible sanctions.
“I know teams have been fined and other teams have been docked points, but it might be different because it’s a group section rather than just a straightforward tie.
“We have to accept whatever it is and deal with it and see if we can still qualify.
“It gives us a challenge and a common cause to rally together and try to get through to the next round of the competition.”
He added: “I don’t know what the sanctions will be and I don’t want to preempt any of that. The only thing was that we were winning 2-0 when he came on and we lost a goal! It didn’t help us, that’s for sure.”
Granite City side Cove refused to comment on the situation, saying it was a matter for Hearts and the SPFL.
If Hearts were to be denied the points gained from Wednesday’s win, it would leave them six points adrift of Inverness in Group C of the cup and make today’s clash with Raith Rovers all the more important if they are to progress.
They will be boosted by the return of Steven Naismith following suspension but Steven MacLean, who made a goalscoring debut during the week, will miss out along with Harry Cochrane who has suffered a fresh ankle knock.
Levein said: “At the beginning of the competition our focus was to win all four matches because that guarantees you get through to the next round.
“We have played one and won it, but whether we have won it or not we will have to wait and see and the intention hasn’t changed, and that’s to win the rest of the matches we play.
“We play Raith on Saturday who will be hurt a little bit after losing a derby match to Cowdenbeath and I’m sure they will be fired up to make sure that situation doesn’t reoccur.”