Craig Levein says Hearts lacking quality but sees positives despite 0-0 draw at Livingston
Manager insists his team have built on last week's result against Rangers
Craig Levein feels Hearts built on last week's 1-1 result against Rangers despite being held to a goalless draw by ten-man Livingston.
Aymen Souda's red card left the hosts with ten men early in the second half and, according to Levein, it also unsettled the Edinburgh club. Although Hearts competed throughout the 90 minutes and dominated periods of the match, they lacked creativity in the final third against a resilient West Lothian outfit.
"We have built on it [the Rangers result] to a degree because we lost 5-0 here last year," said Levein. "Today was a hell of a lot better than that. I feel we have carried on from the Rangers game.
"We lacked a bit of quality in the Rangers game and again today. That's the frustration. I thought we were the better side. It's a step forward from last week but the frustration is it's one point instead of three.
"I asked the player to be really competitive and I got that. They worked extremely hard and played well as a team. We took 15 minutes or so to adjust once Livingston went down to ten men. Once we did adjust, I felt we controlled the rest of the match.
"We should have scored and should have won but I'm sure I've said that once or twice before. We had some great opportunities to cut the ball back but we decided to shoot or just blast the ball across goal.
"It's difficult to fault anybody. The only thing I really criticise is if we don't turn up, compete against our opponents or stand up and be counted. They all did that and have been doing it for a few weeks. That little bit of extra that we need at the top end of the pitch just wasn't there."
Hearts' Japanese forward Ryotaro Meshino was substituted during the second half having been feeling unwell. "Ryo wasn't at his best. He felt ill and I had to take him off," explained Levein. "I thought Uche [Ikpeazu] played well but he just didn't get an opportunity to score. I'm frustrated but there were a lot of good things in the match."
Souda received a straight red card for a challenge on the Christophe Berra. He collided with the Hearts captain with the ball bouncing around after goalkeeper Joel Pereira tried to collect a high cross. Livingston going down to ten men seemed to make life more difficult for Hearts.
"It can do. I thought we were still the better side at 11 against 11 and had an opportunity to win the match," said Levein. "The red card did unsettle us and it took us too long to adjust. I think one goal would have been enough to win and if we had got one early enough we might have been able to win more."
Livingston manager Gary Holt was understandably elated to take a point after his team coped with a numerical disadvantage for such a long time.
"I'm absolutely buzzing. To a man, we were brilliant," he remarked. "I said after last week's game that only the players could answer the question about whether they were too cocky or confident because they beat Celtic the week before. Today, we showed what we are and where we are as a club. The never-say-die attitude not to concede a goal was immense.
"We didn't just sit in, we tried to play on the counter-attack and kept forward-thinking players on the pitch to try and stretch it. At the end of the day, we got a clean sheet after about 40 minutes with ten men so I am over the moon.
Asked if he thought Souda deserved his red card, Holt replied: "No comment. I didn't see it so I will have to watch it back. I don't get involved with referees. They have a hard enough job."