Hearts gaffer Robbie Neilson was blunt in his summation of his team’s 0-0 cinch Premiership draw at the Tony Macaroni Arena, determining the spectacle “was not one that will make the Christmas DVDs”, while his Livingston counterpart David Martindale blamed the conditions for the fact that the product was competitive, if not always entertaining.
“There was not a lot in the game,” said Martindale. “It was a lot more difficult for the players than what it probably looked like from the stand. Both sides over hit passes that would normally have stayed in the park and both managers are probably disappointed they never got the result but not hugely disappointed they’ve come away with a clean sheet and a point.
“We nullified Hearts for the majority of the game. At home I genuinely believe we can get points off anyone. That’s us taken five points from Hearts [courtesy of one win and two draws against the Gorgie outfit] and Hearts have taken two from us. I think for a club our size, and I don’t like speaking about budgets, but that’s testament to how far we’ve come as a football club. Hearts are the third best team in the country. They’ve battered a few teams and scored a lot of goals. They deserve to be just outside the Old Firm. But anyone outside the Old Firm I think we can take points from.”
In a game where both sides had chances, Hearts’ best came in the second half through substitute Garang Kuol. The teenager’s pace was a weapon and working alongside Stephen Humphrys and Lawrence Shankland, he tested the home defence, but Shamal George pulled off a double save to deny him a winner. At the other end Livingston’s Steven Bradley’s audacious attempt to lob Zander Clark was thwarted by Kye Rowles, who got back to hook the former Hibee’s effort off the line.
“You have to take the opportunities when they arise, if you don't take them then you don't deserve to take three points,” said Neilson, whose team will head into Wednesday’s home match against Rangers on the back of a ten-game unbeaten run and four successive clean sheets.
Neilson will be back in the technical area for that one, having served his two-match touchline ban. “It will be good to get back in it again and hopefully I can be there for an extended period now,” he added. “I don't mind it though, to be honest with you. You get a better view and I have Gordon [Forrest] and Lee [McCulloch] down there who can control the game so it wasn't a problem.”
He will have to wait to see which players are able to feature after he was forced to make a few changes for the Livi game, while Cammy Devlin came off with a tight hamstring. “We had a couple of them with bugs and Michael Smith and James Hill had injuries from last week. We also have a couple who find it difficult to play on that surface and then play again two or three days later so we just felt it was important to try to win this but also make sure we have guys ready for Wednesday.”