It is all about perspective. Hearts dropped points for the first time in this league campaign but, according to the stand-in captain, they have not lost their grip on reality.
John Souttar did not dispute that this was arguably the side’s worst showing of the fledgling Premiership campaign but he also insisted it was not going to make or break their season.
“It was never going to be the case that we would win every game and there are going to be days like this but it’s important when we do get days like this that we don’t concede goals.”
Thanks in particular to solid performances from Souttar, his central defensive partner Jimmy Dunne and the capital goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal, who pulled off a cracking second-half save when Scott Pittman was through on goal, the side were able to foil Livingston’s hopes of anything beyond a stalemate but, at the other end, the absence of a cutting edge meant that the home side wouldn’t fare any better.
As well as a missed penalty and two efforts crashing off the bar, there were poorly weighted passes, sloppy crosses and a standard of decision-making that did not impress the Hearts fans who have been feeding off the positivity generated by a bright start to the season, which sees them still sitting five points clear in the league and eagerly anticipating Wednesday’s Betfred League Cup quarter-final against Motherwell.
Sections of the Gorgie support showered their team with boos at the final whistle, disappointed by the way standards had slipped against an organised and combative Livingston side who had contributed hugely to just how much the home side struggled. They have now conjured up four clean sheets from their opening six league games.
“It was very frustrating,” said the Scotland international, pictured inset. “It was one of those days. They came, sat in and were compact and we didn’t start too well. It was probably our poorest performance of the season.
“It shows the standards we set that the fans are booing. We know when we’re winning that they’ll back us so we’ll take the boos following a draw against a team we think we should be beating at Tynecastle.
“It is a harsh lesson but we’re unbeaten and you don’t want to be too negative. We’ve won the first five of the season and we’ve started really well and it’s important we don’t let the heads drop after one game.
“It’s not the end of the world and it’s important we go again on Wednesday and get the win that will take us to Hampden.” By then manager Craig Levein hopes to have Uche Ikpeazu back. The imposing striker was missing on Saturday after sustaining a knock in the clash with Fir Park keeper Trevor Carson a week earlier and whether he would have created more than the likes of Craig Wighton or Steven MacLean against Livingston with so many of the men around him well-shy of their usual standards is simply conjecture but his physical presence would have made life a little less comfortable for the visitors.
Wighton was profligate when he spearheaded a breakaway move. He had options to his left and right but another loose pass denied veteran strike partner MacLean the quality chance he should have had.
Steven Naismith, who has been in a rich seam of form in recent weeks, was also left to rue his missed penalty, on the stroke of half-time, as Liam Kelly dived to his right to block the spot kick and Jimmy Dunne and MacLean were denied by the crossbar, while, for Livingston, Dolly Menga was sloppy when he tried to play Pittman in as the two broke two on one and that allowed Zlamal to dart off his line and block Pittman’s strike.
But Hearts are determined to up their game for the knockout match with Stephen Robinson’s men on Wednesday. Souttar says they are keeping a lid on title ambitions but is less coy about the desire to win silverware.
“I think everyone else was speaking about titles. I don’t think anyone in our changing room was mentioning that. But a club like Hearts has to win cups, it’s as simple as that. It’s a great chance for us. It would be brilliant to get a cup run, this club and the fans would thrive off it. The full focus is on Wednesday and they’re no pushovers.”