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Steven Naismith always felt Hearts would fight back against Livingston

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 13 Apr 2024

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Hearts manager Steven Naismith admitted he always expected his team to respond after coming from two goals down to beat Livingston 4-2.

The hosts were punished for a slow start after going two down inside 22 minutes following a Stephen Kelly brace.

But Hearts fought back in emphatic fashion after scoring through Jorge Grant, Yutaro Oda, Cammy Devlin and Lawrence Shankland before the break.

The win kept Hearts 11 points clear in third place in the cinch Premiership and confirmed European football for next season, with the Jambos now guaranteed at least a top-four finish.

Naismith insists he was not surprised by the manner of his side’s comeback.

He said: “We didn’t come out the changing room for the first 10-15 minutes. It was a poor start, really poor, really sloppy, and then brilliant.

“We lost two goals but it’s the third time we have come back. When the second goal goes in there’s a frustration from me and the fans.

“I knew when we were 2-0 down we’d come back into the game because we have shown it before. The element of having a ruthless streak and being more clinical is something we have talked about.

“And that part I am really happy with because our speed of attack, our bodies in the box, that’s what gets us back in the game. There were some really good goals.”

Naismith handed Craig Gordon his first league start since Christmas Eve 2022 ahead of the goalkeeper playing in next Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers.

He added: “He’s been playing in the cup and I thought it was a good opportunity to get him a game before the semi-final. That was the decision.”

Livingston remain nine points adrift at the bottom ahead of the final five post-split matches and manager David Martindale insists the way the match unfolded summed up their season.

He said: “I think what you saw there in the first half was the story of our season played out in 45 minutes.

“We started the game really well and should have scored a third when Tete (Yengi) was clean through against Craig Gordon. That was an unbelievable chance.

“Stephen came up with two good goals. To give Hearts their due, they scored two decent goals but we gifted them the goals.”

Asked why Tete Yengi received a second yellow card just seconds after being substituted, Martindale added: “The kid comes off the park frustrated, he’s kicked one of our bottles. He’s kicked it into our dugout.

“I’m not saying what he’s done is right but I think you need to give him some leeway. I just think there has to be a bit of common sense applied.”

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