Craig Levein: Hearts were close to sneaking win over Hibs

Uche Ikpeazu roars with delight after scoring the equalising goal for Hearts at Easter Road
Uche Ikpeazu roars with delight after scoring the equalising goal for Hearts at Easter Road
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Hearts manager Craig Levein left Easter Road disappointed not to win the Edinburgh derby after his team equalised with seven minutes left.

Uche Ikpeazu’s late leveller earned the visitors a point after Christophe Berra’s unfortunate own goal gave Hibs the lead on 69 minutes. Marc McNulty missed a penalty before the hosts scored, however Hearts finished the match strongly and came close to getting a winner.

Moments after stroking home the equaliser from substitute Steven MacLean’s lay-off, Ikpeazu tried an acrobatic overhead kick which the Hibs goalkeeper Ofir Marciano pushed away for a corner.

Levein praised his players for their resilience, and especially teenage midfielders Connor Smith and Harry Cochrane. Yesterday was Cochrane’s fourth start of an injury-interrupted season, while 17-year-old Smith made his first senior start in the derby. “From being 1-0 down, we were intent on trying to see if we could sneak a win. It’s a good point, though,” Levein told the Evening News.

“I was delighted with the two kids. They were both tired and that’s because a lot of the energy goes before the start in these games. They are that uptight once they know they’re playing. They waste so much energy being hyper or worrying. So I was really pleased for them. We had some good performances and some not so good. The most important thing was we rolled our sleeves up and dug in. That’s got us a point and we were pushing to score again.”

Both Cochrane and Smith used the ball intelligently and helped the flow of play through the Hearts midfield, especially in the first half.

“I put Harry and Connor in to give us that because that’s the way they play,” added Levein.

“In time, we will play that way all the time when everybody can do the same things. Right now, we’re suffering a bit because we don’t have all our best players. We don’t have the same fluency.

“We don’t have the streetwise, battle-hardened players who have seen it all before. Bobby Zlamal made a good save when we needed him to, as did Ofir Marciano for Hibs a couple of times.”