Michael Smith likens Hearts’ last trip to the Tony Macaroni Arena to the Battle of the Alamo and says the memory of being peppered by five goals that night still hurts.
That mauling, in December, put paid to the squad’s plans for a Christmas night out in Prague, as they opted to instead stay at home and try to right their poor form. But the experienced defender said no-one was feeling particularly festive after gifting their opponents so many openings.
“We had a meeting on the bus straight after the game and said ‘there’s no way we can go after that!’ It would have looked bad and we wanted to get some extra training in. It was an easy decision. I wouldn’t have been in the right mood to go away and have a fun weekend after that.”
Time has not eased the pain of that humiliation.
“It’s one of our darkest days as a team and I think it was my darkest day in football,” said the Northern Ireland full-back, who has been impressing as a stand-in centre back in recent weeks. “It was a terrible night for us. We didn’t play well at all and just collapsed. I wouldn’t say we owe them one but we’ll certainly be remembering that scoreline when we go back there.
“We collapsed and we hid. Once they scored and Arnaud [Djoum] was sent off, from that point it was like the Alamo. We just couldn’t get out and couldn’t seem to do anything about it. Maybe we should have tried to keep the score down and get out of there with a 2-0. However, it happened and, although I wouldn’t say we are better for it, you remember results like that and it stands you in good stead for other performances.
“We owe it to ourselves to compete a lot better, and we owe the fans a better performance. Hopefully they will come in their numbers and we can put on a show for them.”
The Gorgie side have had a difficult start to the season and sit third bottom, four points behind Gary Holt’s men, who occupy seventh spot. A positive performance against Rangers last weekend, to earn a draw, has bolstered belief, according to Smith, but he knows that a similar level of competitiveness will be needed in West Lothian today.
“There’s definitely no chance we’ll underestimate this! I said to Whelo [Glenn Whelan] that this will be one of the toughest games he’s had in Scotland – if not the toughest.
“It’s tough to go there. They know how to play on that surface, they are aggressive and win second balls. They beat Celtic 2-0 so no-one can underestimate them. They play some good football as well. I like the boys in the middle of the park, they are decent footballers.”
Livingston midfielder Keaghan Jacobs believes Hearts’ tenth place in the table is irrelevant, having picked up only one victory in their opening nine league games.
He said: “They’re still a really good team. They’ve not got off to a great start but you can’t be looking at a game against Hearts from their league position, you’ve got to look at them for the team they are. We go in with the same mentality as every week. We work on our own strengths, get in their faces and hopefully get the result.”