Hearts tipped for the top as Robbie Neilson’s side extend unbeaten run

Livingston manager David Martindale says he can see a clear divide developing between the teams he believes will finish in the top four and everyone else in the league. And, having played most of the front runners, he predicts that Hearts will see out the season as one of the leading quartet.

Hearts' Michael Smith celebrates with Cammy Devlin after opening the scoring against Livingston at Tynecastle. Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group

The Tynecastle, who currently sit second, blew his men away with two goals from Michael Smith and a penalty from Liam Boyce within seven first-half minutes, before Alex Cochrane wrapped up a comfortable and enjoyable afternoon for the home side with a third in the 64th minute.

And while Livingston contributed to their own downfall with a lethargic display, Hearts set a demanding tempo and looked slicker and quicker throughout.

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“I was really pleased with the way we played,” said Hearts boss Robbie Neilson. “We’ve been like that in the majority of games we’ve played this season but today was a day that the majority of things we’ve been working on came to fruition.

“When I came in at the start of last season we’d the oldest squad in the Championship and the plan was to get the squad a lot younger and more energetic, more mobile.

“Barrie’s [McKay’s] performance was the reason we brought him here. We’ve got Barrie, Mackay Steven, Woodburn, Walker and Ginnelly, so that keeps everyone fresh and ready to go.

But in the middle of the park, it was Beni Baningime and Cameron Devlin who dictated play.

“Cammy’s another piece in the jigsaw, he’s 23, he’s got energy, pace, mobility and he can deal with the ball. I’ve been pleased with the ones that came in.

“Livingston have had tough games – Sunday Wednesday Saturday, against Celtic, Rangers and Hearts – so we knew it would be important to bring energy to dominate the game.

“We’ve managed to recruit the right players, the right types of players. It’s nice to be where we are but we’re only seven games in and how we respond to the lows will be the next question.

“Ginnelly and John Souttar didn’t make the squad today because they have niggles. A couple of months ago we’d be sitting with 12-13 players and if we’d got a couple of injuries we’d have been struggling. But now we’ve got competition.”

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