Aaron McEneff admitted Hearts were delighted to grind out an ugly victory at Livingston after failing to take three points from previous away games where they had played far better.
The Jambos notched their first win on their travels since August through Liam Boyce’s second-half strike at the Tony Macaroni Arena, but only after weathering a first-half storm from the hosts.
Hearts were left to rue missed chances earlier in the season as they were held to draws away to Ross County and St Johnstone, despite playing well, so Irish midfielder McEneff was thrilled to help his team leave West Lothian with three points when not at their best.
He said: “It’s a good thing to get an away win. We have probably played better away from home than we did against Livingston and dropped points, so it’s a great feeling to pick up three points away from home.
“We didn’t really come out of the blocks in the first half. For whatever reason we didn’t get going and Livingston were well on top. But we have a top-class goalkeeper and he kept us in it.
“Then we changed our shape a bit and when we got in at half-time 0-0 we knew we had to lift ourselves and I think we did that. We came out in the second half like a different team.”
McEneff was full of praise for Scotland keeper Craig Gordon after he produced an incredible triple save to keep Hearts on level terms in the first half.
He said: “He is just unbelievable. He does it every day in training. I stay behind in training most days and hit shots at the big man.
“Sometimes he’s lying on the ground before the ball is even hit and he’s just plucking them out of the air. He’s different class.”
Third-placed Hearts are now five points clear of both Dundee United and Motherwell in the battle for a European place as they prepare to host cinch Premiership leaders Rangers next Sunday.
McEneff said: “We have started well this year, but we don’t focus too much on what’s around us. We try to focus on ourselves. We’ve got a big game next Sunday against Rangers so we will prepare properly this week and focus on that.”
McEneff has spent much of the season on the periphery but is delighted to have started his first two league games of the campaign away to Celtic and Livingston over the past week.
He said: “It has been difficult at times being out of the squad and being on the bench. You want to get a run and keep yourself going. I’ve started the last two and hopefully I can kick on from that.”