Liam Boyce’s winning goal gives Robbie Neilson’s men a five-point cushion in third place, but they had to work hard for the victory after being outplayed in the first half. Injuries to Boyce and Michael Smith are also cause for concern.
Player of the match
Who else but Craig Gordon. Like a fine wine, the Scotland goalkeeper gets better with age. He will be 39 later this month but his reactions and agility are as good as ever, demonstrated by an incredible triple save in the first half.
He made another smart stop to deny Alan Forrest in the second half and was key to Hearts´ victory.
In front of him, centre-back Craig Halkett ran him a close second with a gritty performance against his former club.
Gordon’s stunning triple save midway through the first half was a hammer blow for Livingston, who were dominating at the time.
Andrew Shinnie, Jason Holt and Alan Forrest were all kept out by the veteran goalkeeper and Craig Sibbald’s effort hit the post all within the space of 15 or 20 seconds.
Gordon clearly enjoyed it, letting out the roar of a lion at the end of it as if to say ‘I will not be beaten’. It was a game-changer, enabling Hearts to go in level at half time and make the changes that were obviously needed.
Benefit of hindsight
Robbie Neilson reverted to his favoured 3-4-3 formation, after having changed the shape at Celtic Park. But Livingston’s high energy, high pressing game, coupled with an extra man in the middle of midfield gave them control of the game.
When Peter Haring came on for the ineffectual Ben Woodburn to bolster the midfield in the 29th minute, Hearts were able to establish a foothold and the momentum shifted in the second half.
Haring played well at Celtic Park, so it was something of a surprise to see him dropped and Woodburn struggled to cope with Livingston’s physicality.
It was a bold move by Neilson to hook the on-loan Liverpool man so early, but it was the right decision. Maybe he should have started with Haring after all.
Moment you may have missed
Taylor Moore once again demonstrated his athleticism on the right flank, when he had to come on to replace Michael Smith after just 15 minutes, but he is not a natural in the wing-back/right midfield role.
He can look a bit like a square peg in a round hole at times, as demonstrated in the second half when he surged 50 yards up the line with the ball, beating a couple of players and getting the Hearts fans off their seats … only to trip over himself as he reached the corner flag.
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