Three things we learned from Hearts 0 - 0 Livingston

Uche Ikpeazu makes his return from injury as a second-half substitute.Uche Ikpeazu makes his return from injury as a second-half substitute.
Uche Ikpeazu makes his return from injury as a second-half substitute.
Analysis from a frustrating night at Tynecastle as Hearts were held to a 0-0 stalemate by Gary Holt's Livingston.

The Tynecastle back three missed Michael Smith

The "three big lumps" did their job and then some in the 2-1 win away to Kilmarnock last Friday. Against a team above them in the table, Hearts prioritised defensive solidity and stopped their opponents from doing much of note other than a first-half penalty.

While it made sense to keep the same line-up for this contest, as it's always tempting to keep a winning formula, with the benefit of hindsight the central defensive three could have done with a bit more composure in possession.

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When Michael Smith plays in the back three along with John Souttar and Christophe Berra it gives the unit two players comfortable at carrying the ball out and starting attacks. It also meant that the right side of the 3-4-2-1 lacked some attacking impetus with Smith not as much of a threat going at the opposing defender as Callumn Morrison.

Hearts played into Livingston's hands

The visitors were low on confidence coming into this match after a rough start to 2019 and it showed in the early going. Hearts fans frustrated with their side's attacking performance up to 40 minutes could at least console themselves with the fact that Livingston didn't look capable of scoring if they'd played all night.

Where they excelled was at the back. The away side's three-man unit of Alan Lithgow, Declan Gallagher and Craig Halkett are as good as anyone in the league at dealing with direct passes. Hearts are often unfairly stereotyped of reverting to such a tactic, but on Wednesday evening they went to that particular well too often. By giving Livingston their bread and butter the visitors were able to grow in confidence and into the game.

They threatened on a couple of occasions at the end of the half. That then carried over into the second period where it began to look like anyone's game as the crowd grew impatient.

Things might have got worse if not for Uche

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Livingston were the side in the ascendancy when Uche Ikpeazu made his long-awaited return. Coming on as a substitute for Oliver Bozanic, the English striker was greeted by a rapturous applause from the Hearts support. He immediately showed what they'd been missing as a turn near the box saw two defenders bounce off him.

That not only gave the crowd and the home players a lift, it also gave Levein's men the outball they had been craving and re-established their territorial advantage as they once again looked more likely to score. That didn't happen, but one point and a clean sheet is a lot better than what could have happened if he hadn't have been able to make his return this early.