MARK Burchill, the Livingston assistant player-manager and former Hearts player, has denied the Tynecastle club disrespected his side as well as the Petrofac Cup by playing so many debutants when the teams met on Wednesday night.
However, Burchill, who was on the bench as Livingston earned a 4-1 win over a youthful Hearts team, admitted that the changes handed his side “a bit of a boost”.
Livingston’s win earned them an away trip to Peterhead in the last eight of the Petrofac Cup when the draw was made yesterday at Lesser Hampden.
Last season’s losing finalists Rangers travel to face East Fife, while Stranraer entertain Falkirk and Morton host Alloa Athletic.
Hearts, meanwhile, are left to concentrate on league and League Cup commitments in future weeks, with director of football Craig Levein tweeting yesterday that it had been a “great development experience” for the youngsters to play against Livingston.
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson made ten changes to the starting line-up that defeated Hibernian 2-1 on Sunday, including five debutants. Five teenagers sat on the bench alongside Bryn Halliwell, the veteran goalkeeper.
“Even when we saw that [Osman] Sow and [Jamie] Walker would be suspended we thought we might have a chance,” said Burchill. “Then you see they have changed ten players and we were sitting in the dressing room thinking this has given us a bit of a boost. There are two ways of looking at it – either you think these are just young guys and take your foot off the pedal or you go out and do it properly.
“We just told the guys to go out there and play the players, don’t play the occasion. There was 4,000 or 5,000 there and that is a big crowd for Livingston players to play in front of. I thought they dealt with it well.
“Obviously it is up to Robbie [Neilson] and Craig [Levein] what their decision is,” he added. “Robbie said to me they won’t have much opportunity to play their young guys in the league so they thought they would give them a chance in the cup. I did not think they disrespected us. I think it’s more of a case that their fans were not happy at going along and seeing the regular players were not playing.
“We were just delighted we played against a weakened Hearts team and were good enough to win.
“I think there was something like four 15-year-olds on the bench, which is pretty ridiculous.
“But they still put up a good fight and they were a good team and up until 74 minutes it was still 1-0. At the start of the second half they probably edged it. Then we got the second goal and we grew in confidence and got another couple of goals.”
Petrofac Training Cup quarter-final draw:
Morton v Alloa Athletic
Stranraer v Falkirk
East Fife v Rangers
Peterhead v Livingst
Ties are due to be played on Saturday September 6, with the winners going forward to the semi-finals on Sunday October 12.