'A small part of me was thinking, oh no...' - Craig Levein relieved as Hearts dig deep to beat Stenhousemuir
Craig Levein admitted he was starting to fear the worst after Hearts had to dig themselves out of a hole at home to League Two side Stenhousemuir.
The Tynecastle side dominated most of Wednesday night’s Betfred Cup match in Gorgie, but the part-time visitors took the league against the run of play in the 77th minute.
Two goals in the closing eight minutes from Craig Halkett turned the game around and moved Hearts to the top of Group A, much to the relief of their manager.
“I’ve got a lot of faith in the players and we created so much I felt we would eventually take advantage, but after the four shots from six yards out I did have a small part of me thinking ‘oh no’,” said Levein, referring to a remarkable goalmouth scramble before Stenny took the lead.
“But all credit to the boys for keeping plugging away. We were expected to win comfortably but that doesn’t teach us much. I thought tonight was a good lesson about perseverance in the end.
“It also showed there’s more than one way to play. Early on there was a lot of intricate play and chances without really taking advantage of them.
"After that it was a bit more direct than we’d been doing. In some ways I’m quite pleased because a lot of play in the first half was nice on the eye. It was just the frustration of the final pass or cross that had me a little annoyed.
"But we’ve got another three points, we’re on eight points and we can win the group on Saturday with a repeat performance (against East Fife) and taking our chances.”
Levein admitted his defenders - Michael Smith, Halkett, John Souttar and Aaron Hickey - were his four best players against Stenhousemuir.
“Our best players were the back four,” he said. “Defensively their goal came from absolutely nothing and they only had one other shot.
"But they all contributed in a positive sense going forward. Michael put a lot of good crosses in, John hit five or six wonderful diagonal passes to change the play, Craig scored two and Hickey is a different level.”