Analysis from Almondvale as Hearts crash to their worst defeat of the season, losing five goals to Livingston in an bewildering 14-minute second-half period.
Football is a very strange sport sometimes
Even before the collapse Hearts were largely second best to their hosts. Livingston played with greater energy, intensity and created the better chances. But it was still a reasonably close game and the thought, on 71 minutes, that one team was going to run away with it, let alone win the match 5-0 with every single goal coming in a 14-minute period, was completely absurd. Unfortunately for the 2,500 Hearts fans who made the trip to West Lothian on a bitterly cold Friday night, that's exactly what happened. Every time Livingston went forward they scored. It was almost too surreal to believe.
The problems are no longer isolated to the attack
Much has been talked about the troubles Hearts have experienced since injuries befell some of their key players earlier in the season. At first, while the attack struggled, the defence largely held together with Jimmy Dunne, in particular, starring in reserve of the injured starters. However, with the exception of last Saturday's win over Motherwell, it's been a good few weeks now where the Hearts defence has not looked up to the task. Five goals conceded at Celtic, two conceded at St Mirren, another two at St Johnstone, and now five in Almondvale. What made it worse is that it could have been a lot more as Livingston hit the woodwork and forced Zdenek Zlamal into a couple of impressive first-half saves. With Clevid Dikamona pulling up, and Dunne and John Souttar unlikely to be fit before January, manager Craig Levein will have to come up with some sort of solution.
Hearts struggled to deal with Livingston's intensity
This applied to the full 90 minutes. The hosts are where they are in the league because of the willingness of every player in a yellow jersey to run longer and harder than his opposing number. Livi players can be labelled with playing in a midfield three, or at wing-back, or up front, but they're all willing to chase the ball down to the other end of the pitch if need be. It's absolutely suffocating for whichever team they face, especially at home where they've lost only once in ten games. Even before everything came crashing down around the beleaguered away players, the trio of Keaghan Jacobs, Shaun Byrne and, particularly, Scott Pittman in the centre of the park had won the battle against the Hearts three.