Livingston 0-0 Hearts: Ten in a row for Jambos after stalemate in West Lothian
Hearts increased their unbeaten run to ten games with a hard-earned 0-0 draw at Livingston. Both teams missed good opportunities during the 90 minutes and had to settle for a point as they pursue European qualification.
Kye Rowles cleared off his own goal line to deny Livingston winger Steven Bradley a certain opening goal. That came after the home goalkeeper Shamal George produced a double save to deny Hearts substitute Garang Kuol.
Both teams matched each other during the match but will curse the lack of a clinical edge in attack. A distinctly unremarkable first half gave way to a far more entertaining second period, but a decisive breakthrough eluded both sets of players.
The result leaves third-place Hearts still seven points ahead of Livingston in fourth. They now entertain Rangers on Wednesday, whilst David Martindale's charges travel to Glasgow to face Celtic having gone six games without losing.
Five changes for Hearts and two for Livingston brought a degree of freshness to both sides for a game between two Europe-chasing clubs in the cinch Premiership. Around 5,000 travelling fans arrived in West Lothian hoping for a continuation of Hearts’ fine recent form. Recent signing Yutaro Oda was handed his first start in what was always likely to be a keenly-fought encounter.
It was a more familiar face, Lawrence Shankland, who headed the game’s first chance over Livingston’s crossbar on 18 minutes. At the opposite end seconds later, Kye Rowles blocked Bruce Anderson’s attempt from Stephen Kelly’s low cross. Hearts then lost midfielder Cammy Devlin to injury as Jorge Grant stepped off the bench.
A scrapy first 45 minutes lacked quality passing in all areas of the field, not helped by a swirling wind at the Tony Macaroni Arena. Hearts fashioned the half’s best opportunity in the final minute. Stephen Humphrys worked the ball out to Lawrence Shankland for an inviting low delivery from the right of the hosts’ penalty area. Oda slid in but did not make contact as the ball flew across the six-yard area. The Japanese was then replaced at the interval by another recent recruit, Kuol.
The on-loan Newcastle United teenager was on the field less than three minutes when presented with the clearest scoring chance any forward could hope for. Humphrys slipped the ball inside and Kuol’s touch took him into the penalty area, but George stopped both of his left-footed attempts. His pace caused plenty problems for the home defenders.
The West Lothian side fashioned a good chance themselves on 57 minutes. Stephene Omeonga’s right-sided cross found winger Bradley unmarked as the ball swerved in the wind. Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark hesitated, however Bradley failed to connect with his head and Clark managed to beat the ball away.
Rowles rescued the visitors just after the hour mark. Bradley lofted a through ball over the advancing Clark and Rowles cleared a certain goal virtually off the line. The game was now far more open and George dived to his right to prevent Humphrys’ drive from 22 yards putting Hearts ahead.
Again play switched and Livingston defender Morgan Boyes ended a meandering forward run with a vicious left-foot 25-yard shot which Clark repelled. Despite the best efforts of both teams, this game finished goalless.
Livingston (4-3-3): George; Devlin, Fitzwater, Boyes, Penrice; Omeonga, Sean Kelly (Guthrie 64), Pittman; Bradley (Montano 86), Anderson, Stephen Kelly (Holt 90).
Hearts (3-4-1-2): Clark; Sibbick, Rowles, Kingsley; Atkinson (Ginnelly 74), Devlin (Grant 39), Kiomourtzoglou, Cochrane; Shankland, Humphrys (Forrest 85); Oda (Kuol 46).
Referee: Alan Muir.