Livingston 0-0 Hearts

29 January 2023

The Jambos had a higher volume of opportunities but both sides had good chances to take all three points, though the takes the Jam Tarts’ unbeaten run to 10 games.

Robbie Neilson made five changes from the side that knocked Hibs out of the Scottish Cup a week ago. In came Stephen Kingsley, Nathaniel Atkinson, Orestis Kiomourtzoglou and Stephen Humphrys, with Yutaro Oda handed a first start. Barrie McKay, Josh Ginnelly and Robert Snodgrass moved to the bench while Michael Smith and James Hill missed out altogether.

The opening stages were a tight affair, with neither side giving much away. The first sniff of goal came on 19 minutes, when Alex Cochrane’s corner was met by Lawrence Shankland, but the skipper headed narrowly over the bar.

Zander Clark wasn’t called into action until the 43rd minute. Livi broke down the flanks through James Penrice, his ball into the middle was missed by everyone with Stephen Kelly eventually picking it up and shooting, but it was tame and straight at the Hearts ‘keeper.

Moments later, the Jambos passed up the best chance of the half. Humphrys found Shankland on the edge of the box, his teasing ball across the six-yard box nearly found Oda but he couldn’t connect and it flew behind.

Garang Kuol was introduced at the break and nearly made an instant impact after a quick Hearts breakaway saw Humphrys play him clean through on goal, but his first shot was blocked by Livi goalkeeper Shamal George with his follow up effort suffering the same fate.

Kuol was in the thick of it again moments later, being sent down the left by Humphrys and showing electric pace to gather the ball and cut into the box but, from a very acute angle, his shot was saved by George.

Hearts were on the ascendancy and just after the hour mark substitute Jorge Grant floated a ball out to Shankland, who found Humphrys inside the box, he did well to create space for himself before firing straight at George.

The hosts went straight up the park and almost took the lead. Steven Bradley beat Clark to a long ball over the top and lobbed it over him, but Kye Rowles raced back to clear the ball off the line.

A quick Hearts break once again saw the boys in maroon go close. Atkinson’s ball inside to Humphrys saw the forward take a touch before blasting a shot from distance that George had to dive to touch around the post.

Livi gave a timely reminder of how dangerous they could be with 12 minutes remaining. Morgan Boyes skipped away from three maroon shirt before hitting a powerful shot from the edge of the box that Clark did well to beat away.

That was the last of the game’s meaningful chances as the Jambos maintain a seven-point lead in third place.

Livingston: George, Devlin, Fitzwater, Boyes, Penrice, Sean Kelly (Guthrie, 64'), Omeonga, Pittman, Stephen Kelly (Holt, 90'), Bradley (Montano, 86'), Anderson. Subs: Hamilton, Longridge, Obileye, De Lucas, Shinnie, Bahamboula.

Hearts: Clark, Kingsley, Kiomourtzoglou, Shankland (c), Atkinson (Ginnelly, 74'), Devlin (Grant, 38'), Rowles, Cochrane, Sibbick, Humphrys (Forrest, 84'), Oda (Kuol, 46'). Subs: Stewart, McKay, Neilson, Snodgrass.

Referee: Alan Muir