The Edinburgh side imploded during an embarrassing 14-minute spell at the Tony Macaroni Arena on Friday night, with the floodgates opening when Lions skipper Craig Halkett coolly slotted home a penalty after 72 minutes.
Arnaud Djoum was swiftly sent off for a second bookable offence, at which point MacLean says the Hearts players “chucked it”. Goals from Dolly Menga, a Ryan Hardie brace and Shaun Byrne completed the rout as Livingston registered their biggest ever top-flight victory.
MacLean said: “It’s pretty much as low as I’ve felt after a game. The rest of the boys are feeling it too. It wasn’t good enough. We chucked it and that’s not acceptable. Not from any one of us. It’s not good enough for a Hearts team. There are 11 boys in the dressing room that need to take responsibility because that can’t ever happen again.
“There were times when decisions went against us, but there are ways to respond to that. After the first goal, we need to regroup, but then the second one goes in and we folded like a pack of cards. That’s unacceptable. We need to realise if things don’t go our way we can’t just go gung-ho when we’re down to ten men. We left ourselves so open.
“There was enough experience in there to sort it out and we never did it. It’s just not acceptable.”
Livingston looked capable of scoring every time they ventured forward in the dying embers, with the visitors seemingly giving up the ghost and abandoning their defensive duties.
MacLean admitted their were some blunt words exchanged in the dressing room at full-time. “If 11 individuals don’t to their jobs – or ten when we lost a man – that is going to happen,” the striker said. “We have to take responsibility. There were words said between the players at full-time and I think we all know the situation as a team.”
Hearts had the opportunity to go level on points with Celtic at the summit of the Premiership with a victory in West Lothian, with their fine form at the start of the season ensuring they remain in the shake-up in the top half. However, they have won just one of their last nine games.
Many Hearts fans headed for the exit early on Friday but the team still left the field to jeers from those who remained until the bitter end. MacLean, who made a point of apologising to the supporters, reckons the players deserve the panning that will inevitably come their way.
“We got plaudits at the start of the season for how we were playing so we’d expect criticism after that,” he said. “We’re going to get hammered – and rightly so. We have to apologise to our supporters and to the manager as well.”
MacLean has emphasised the need for an immediate response as Hearts seek to restore their battered pride. It’s Aberdeen away up next and Hearts have not won at Pittodrie since an Abiola Dauda strike secured a 1-0 win in 2016.
MacLean added: “We’ve got big characters in the dressing room who can make sure we put it right. It’s about how we react to it. There aren’t any positives just now and we know we just have to make sure we do our jobs better.
“We’ve got a week to put it right before the next one, so we’ll be back on the training field and we’ll try to get it sorted.”