Heart of Midlothian 1-1 Livingston
Wednesday 4th December 2019, KO 19:45 | Ladbrokes Premiership | Tynecastle Park
Hearts were held by Livingston in tonight’s Ladbrokes Premiership encounter at Tynecastle, as a late Steven MacLean goal rescued a point for the Jambos.
Austin MacPhee made five changes to the team that was defeated on Sunday at Ibrox. Bobby Zlamal made his first appearance in goals since August, while there were also places in the team for Michael Smith, now free of illness, while Sean Clare, Jake Mulraney and Loic Damour all came into midfield. Among Livingston’s ranks were former Jambos Scott Robinson and Alan Lithgow, while the Lions were captained by former Hibernian midfielder Marvin Bartley.
Just prior to kick off, Aaron Hickey was deemed unfit to feature and was replaced by Jamie Brandon, who now retained his place in the side from Sunday, with Clevid Dikamona a late addition to the substitutes bench. The Jambos started on the front foot after a long ball from Mulraney found Clare in the area, he headed the ball towards Jamie Walker, and the midfielder hit a first time volley that was well saved by Matija Sarkic in the Livi goal.
The Jambos were well on top in the early stages and had a number of chances to open the scoring in the opening ten minutes. Firstly, a cross from Mulraney found Craig Halkett who headed the ball across goal and just agonisingly missed Steven Naismith, before a driving run from Walker saw Naismith slipped in and his fierce shot brought out a save from Sarkic. From the resulting corner, Halkett somehow nodded wide from point blank range.
Walker came close again a few minutes later when he played a neat one-two with Mulraney that saw him slipped into space but he was driven wide by the Livi defence and his effort was straight at Sarkic. Mulraney then showed a brilliant turn of pace to beat his marker on the half-way line before floating a cross for Clare at the back post but he mistimed the jump and the chance was lost. Then, Lyndon Dykes was slipped through on goal at the other end but a great block from Halkett prevented a certain goal.
Livingston then took the lead against the run of play just after the half-hour mark, when a long throw into the area wasn’t dealt with, and the ball dropped to Bartley who volleyed home from close range. Hearts attempted to respond but missed the target when Halkett met a Glenn Whelan corner, but his effort went over the bar to safety. Then, from a Whelan free kick, the ball was only partially cleared to Damour but the French midfielder thrashed at the effort and it went well wide. The Jambos were then forced into an early change when Naismith signalled he had an issue, and Steven MacLean replaced the Scotland striker.
Into the second half and it was the visitors who started brighter, fashioning two good chances in the opening ten minutes. First, a free kick was Steven Lawless was played all the way to the back post where Dykes headed the ball across goal for Jon Guthrie, but the defender could only head wide. Then, moments later, Lawless himself came close, driving at goal and shooting from distance but his left-footed strike was dragged wide. After this, Uche Ikpeazu was introduced for Damour.
Ikpeazu came close with twenty minutes to go when Walker’s gliding run down the right was crudely halted by Guthrie. From the resulting free kick, the striker met the ball with a strong header but it was straight at Sarkic in the Livi goal. Livi then had two unbelievable chances of their own, firstly when the ball fell to Dykes at the back post, the striker drilled the ball across goal with no takers, before a run from Lawless saw him beat two players but his shot was superbly blocked by Berra.
Hearts came close to an equaliser when the ball dropped to Whelan from a Mulraney cross but, while his shot was struck hard and true, Sarkic got across well to palm it away and to safety. Sub Ryo Meshino then came even closer to levelling when he skinned two Livi players at the edge of the area and fired in a left-footed effort that spun off a defender but agonisingly into the side netting. The leveller did come a minute later though. Whelan’s corner was met by Ikpeazu, his header blocked but the ball dropped to MacLean who rifled home from close range.
There was another scare for Hearts though, as Livi came close to immediately taking the lead when a Hakeem Odoffin free kick was met by Guthrie at the back post, but Zlamal was equal to it and pushed it away. Then, at the other end, Whelan played the ball into MacLean who dummied for Mulraney, who returned it to MacLean but he sliced a shot just past the post in injury time.
Hearts: Zlamal, Smith, Berra, Clare, Walker (Meshino, 76'), Mulraney, Whelan, Naismith (MacLean, 25'), Damour (Ikpeazu, 55'), Halkett, Brandon. Subs: Pereira, Wighton, Dikamona, Irving.
Livingston: Sarkic, Taylor-Sinclair, Sibbald (Erskine, 79'), Lamie, Guthrie, Bartley, Pittman, Robinson, Lawless (Odoffin, 88'), Jacobs (Lawson, 46'), Dykes. Subs: Stewart, McMillan, Lithgow, Souda.
Referee: Greg Aitken