Hearts boss Craig Levein demands repeat of second-half show

Uche Ikpeazu is congratulated on scoring his first goal for Hearts
Uche Ikpeazu is congratulated on scoring his first goal for Hearts
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Craig Levein wants Hearts to reproduce last night’s second-half display against Cowdenbeath if they want to beat Inverness and reach the Betfred Cup knockout stage.

The Tynecastle side scored all of their goals in the 5-0 win after the interval once they increased their passing tempo. An internal discussion pinpointed the problem before strikes from Steven MacLean, Uche Ikpeazu, Peter Haring, Michael Smith and a Steven Naismith penalty completed a comfortable win.

Manager Levein now wants a repeat from kick-off against Inverness on Sunday. Hearts enter the final Group C match on six points with their Highland opponents top of the section on nine. Victory would propel the Edinburgh club into the knockout phase despite a two-point deduction for fielding an ineligible player.

“We wanted to get into a position where we didn’t have to worry too much about goal difference. Winning against Inverness isn’t going to be easy. We need to play like we did in the second half last night – nowhere near like we did in the first half,” said Levein.

“From the beginning of the group, the idea was we’d need to win all four games to be seeded. This competition doesn’t allow for many mistakes, on or off the field. Now we have a chance to qualify.

“I spoke to all the new players when they arrived and said this is a fantastic place to play football, with brilliant fans, but the demands are really high. If you aren’t playing particularly well, you will find out about it from the terraces.

“There is no point in anybody making any complaint about it because that’s the way it is. We have to play well and keep our fans entertained, so we need more of what we did in the second half.

“It was comfortable in the end but hugely frustrating in the first half. The pitch is great but our passing was really slow. We were passing behind people and had to stop, go back and get the ball. Cowdenbeath were well-drilled and shuttled back and forward across the pitch. We didn’t move the ball quick enough to get round the sides and get crosses into the box.

“That was the difference between the first and second half. If Cowdenbeath had seven men in the first half, we still probably wouldn’t have scored. We moved the ball that slowly. The second half was so much better.”

Cowdenbeath’s Martin Scott was red-carded on 31 minutes for a tackle on the Hearts captain Christophe Berra. With the game goalless at the interval, there was a marked increase in pace from the hosts thereafter. “We have a lot of experienced players but sometimes when things aren’t happening it takes the break to work out what the problem is,” stated Levein.

“They probably felt Cowdenbeath were everywhere and couldn’t get through them. It was more about an ability to pass the ball quicker. Our crosses were much better. We put a lot of crosses into the box but not with the quality we did last night. That enabled us to really pepper the Cowdenbeath goal in the second half.

“Uche and Peter got their first [competitive] goals, which is great. I’ve never been a striker so I never took huge confidence from goals but I think strikers do. Steven is an experienced lad but he will be happy he’s scored at Tynecastle. I think you saw from Uche’s face he was quite happy as well.”