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Hearts kicked off 2024 with a 2-1 victory over Livingston at the Tony Macaroni Arena this afternoon.

Goals from Kenneth Vargas and Lawrence Shankland extended Hearts unbeaten run to five matches as the Jambos tighten their grip on 3rd position.

Kurtis Guthrie thought he had opened the scoring for the Lions after nine minutes, but his headed goal was ruled out for offside after a VAR check.

Lawrence Shankland missed a penalty in the 51st minute to give his side the lead before Kenneth Vargas spared his blushes two minutes later to fire the Jambos in front.

The Scottish international eventually got himself on the score-sheet midway through the second half when he netted his 18th goal of the season to double his side’s advantage. Shankland has now scored in six consecutive matches.

Andrew Shinnie pulled one back from the spot for the hosts with 11 minutes to play but Livi could not find an equaliser.

David Martindale’s Livingston are now 13 matches without a win and remain bottom of the Scottish Premiership table.

Hearts boss Steven Naismith was happy with his side’s performance despite challenging playing conditions. He said:

“Pitch is rubbish, always going to be so I’m really pleased with the performance because it’s not a pitch that you’re going to get any good football on. It’s a battle in these games.

“The way the ball bounces, if you let the ball bounce you’re in trouble defensively and also the timing of your runs are most important in these games.

“First half they got the better of the fight, they were picking up second balls, we played deeper.

“Second half we were much better at that part then we had our moments of quality.”

Livingston manager David Martindale named Hearts striker Lawrence Shankland as the difference between the two sides this afternoon and even likened him to former Rangers forward Alfredo Morelos. He said:

“I genuinely think Lawrence Shankland was the difference in the game. What is he (worth)? Four or five million pounds?

“…Hearts have got a match winner in their team… I’m trying to think who I can compare him to, (Alfredo) Morelos?

“…I think Lawrence has actually got more in his overall game, he’s got a better mentality.”