Hearts boss satisfied with midfield at Livingston but not his attackers

Craig Levein assesses stalemate

By Nigel Southworth
Tuesday, 29th October 2019, 6:00 am
Craig Levein says decision making must be better
Craig Levein says decision making must be better

Hearts manager Craig Levein praised midfield aggression at Livingston whilst lamenting a lack of attacking magic. Failing to score against ten men for the final 40 minutes left all connected with Tynecastle Park frustrated as Gary Holt’s side fought to earn a deserved point.

Aymen Souda’s 50th-minute red card left Livingston numerically disadvantaged on Saturday, but Hearts could not capitalise. Decisions up front did not yield the winning goal the visitors craved, although Levein felt midfielders Oliver Bozanic, Sean Clare and Andy Irving showed commendable industry.

Uche Ikpeazu had Hearts’ clearest scoring chance in the first half and was denied by a fine save by the Livingston goalkeeper Matija Sarkic. The result leaves Hearts just one point ahead of the Ladbrokes Premiership’s bottom club, St Johnstone, whom they meet in Perth on Wednesday night.

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“We knew we would have to roll the sleeves up at Livingston and go toe to toe in the second-ball game,” said Levein. “Livingston beat us at that last year - first contact, second balls, stuff like that. We did that very well on Saturday so I was pleased with that.

“Bozanic is good at that type of thing. He brings us a bit of energy. I think Sean is getting better at it. It was a big ask for Andy because it’s not quite his game but he did well.

“I was pleased with Uche’s performance. I felt he was strong, he brought people into the game. Maybe when he shot he could have passed at times but that is about having that calmness. It’s quite difficult to be calm when you’re prepared for a fight.

“There were a lot of good things. On creativity, it is difficult for me to put myself in the players’ heads at that moment when they have to make a split-second decision. For example, Callumn Morrison had a great situation where he shot from a tight angle when he had players unmarked in the six-yard box for a tap-in.

“When we talk about quality, it’s not just quality in execution. It’s quality in the decision-making. I felt decision-making is what cost us in the last third on Saturday. We did have opportunities, I think we should have had more had we done the right things.”

The Japanese forward Ryotar Meshino was substituted in the second half complaining of feeling sick. Hearts will hope he is available for the trip to St Johnstone.

“Hopefully we can do the same things on Wednesday night and top it off with a goal,” said Levein. “We had a good performance last week against Rangers. The effort and unity was excellent again at Livingston but we didn’t get that little bit of quality in the last third.”