Second half strikes from Kenneth Vargas and Lawrence Shankland helped Hearts bag their seventh away league win of the season, following a 2-1 victory over Livingston at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
There were five changes to the side that faced Ross County at Tynecastle. In came Stephen Kingsley, Toby Sibbick, Peter Haring, Alan Forrest and Kenneth Vargas.
Zander Clark was called into action only minutes into the game. A Livi corner from the far side was met by Ayo Obileye, who bulleted a header on target, but the Jambos’ keeper was equal to it, with Zander beating the ball away on his line before the danger was eventually cleared following a goalmouth stramash.
The Lions continued to dominate the early action and they had the ball in the net on 8 minutes, through Curtis Guthrie, however, the flag was up for offside, as Hearts survived another scare.
It hadn’t been a first half blessed with quality; however, Lawrence Shankland almost broke the deadlock ten minutes before the break. The number nine leapt highest to meet Peter Haring’s cross from the left and with all the pace on the cross, he expertly flicked his header goalwards and with Jack Hamilton beaten, the crossbar denied Hearts.
Half-time: Livingston 0-0 Hearts
The second half was always going to produce more in the way of goalmouth action than the first 45 and just two minutes after the restart, Hearts had their first chance of the half.
It was positive play from Vargas, who ran at the Livi backline, before unleashing a low shot that arrowed just wide of the far post.
Just a minute later, Hearts were given an even better opportunity to open the scoring. Alan Forrest made a smart run down the left-hand side of the penalty box before taken out of play by the sliding Mikey Devlin.
Referee David Dickinson pointed to the spot, but Lawrence Shankland’s low penalty was saved by the legs of Hamilton.
The men in maroon had come out the traps firing, and they did take a deserved lead on 53 minutes. Alan Forrest threaded a smart through ball into the path of Vargas, who kept his cool to finish low past Jack Hamilton and break the deadlock.
The Jambos doubled their lead on 64 minutes. Forrest was again the architect, this time he was on the right wing and chipped a lovely ball into Shankland, who got the ball under his spell and with the outside of his right foot, slammed the ball past Hamilton to give Hearts breathing space.
VAR continued to play a part and after a lengthy check for a possible handball by Frankie Kent, the home side halved the deficit 12 minutes from the end, when Andrew Shinnie’s spot-kick beat Clark to set up a nervy ending.
The home side had their tails up at this point and continued to put the Hearts defence under pressure with plenty of crosses into the box.
Forrest’s performance deserved a goal, but the winger was denied in stoppage time by Hamilton. It didn’t impact the result though, as the men in maroon stood tall and after the nine additional minutes were up, the final whistle sounded on another away win for Hearts.
Livingston: Hamilton, Parkes (Montano, 46), Devlin © (Nottingham, 68), Obileye, Pittman (Anderson, 84), Brandon, Bradley (Yengi, 62), Holt, Shinnie, Guthrie, Penrice (Nouble, 68)
Subs: George, Montano, Anderson, Mackay, Nouble, Sangare, Nottingham, De Lucas, Yengi
Hearts: Clark, Kent, Kingsley, Halkett, Haring, Nieuwenhof (Denholm, 89), Shankland ©, Forrest, Cochrane, Sibbick, Vargas (Oda, 90+2)
Subs: Gordon, Oda, Halliday, Denholm, Pollock, Tait, Tagawa, Lowry, Wilson