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Livingston hammering was a one-off for Hearts, says Levein

By December 21, 2018No Comments

Hearts manager Craig Levein is confident the “unique sequence of events” that led to their 5-0 thrashing at Livingston will not be repeated.

And he is certain performances will improve with the return of Steven Naismith for Saturday’s trip to Aberdeen.

In the immediate aftermath of last Friday’s capitulation in West Lothian, Levein promised to find ways to ensure such a defeat would never happen again. But reflection has given him a sense of perspective.

“Friday was so unusual, the circumstances,” he said. “The first goal, a mistake from Bobby (goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal), (Arnaud) Djoum sent off, the second goal, third goal, all coming within five or six minutes.

“It threw the players. OK, we have got to analyse it and see what we can do better, but sometimes it happens.

“You have always got to be careful of what you say but I would be hugely surprised if it happened again. So many things happened in a short period of time that the focus just went completely.

“The game was so unique, the sequence of events. When guys like Christophe Berra get caught up in it, then I have kind of got to take a step back and look at why it was happening.

“Losing the focus is not something I can accuse this group of players of doing on a regular basis. But they have got to atone for it this weekend.”

The players cancelled a trip to Prague for a Christmas night out the day after their heavy loss and Levein has gone easy on them this week.

“I’m the same as the players,” he said. “We win together and lose together. I will take it on the chin like everybody else. This group of players, I have a lot of faith in. When they feel pain and they are suffering, I feel the same.

“There is no question they care, that is not in doubt. We have all been suffering recently with results. They are the same guys, a lot of them, who played so well earlier in the season. So they are frustrated as much as I am and the supporters are.

“The one thing about this group, the players will try their best. The supporters recognise that and there is an affinity because of that. We just need to get back to doing what we were doing earlier in the season, and we will do. When that happens, I can’t say, but it will happen.”

Levein feels the return of Naismith will give them a chance of doing just that. Hearts won 12 of 15 games with Naismith in the team before he went down with a knee injury early in their Betfred Cup semi-final against Celtic. After losing that game, they have taken only five points from eight Ladbrokes Premiership games.

Levein said: “It’s good to hear him barking on the training ground. Everybody is happy to see him back, he is such a good professional. He understands football, he has been though periods when things are difficult, he has done it before, and he can help. We now have Christophe back, we will have Steven back on Saturday, and that will help us, without a shadow of a doubt.

“It’s not like bringing a young player back in the group after injury. Like bringing Christophe back, take out Friday’s game, our previous two results and performances had been better with Christophe back in the team.

“And when Steven comes back in the team, it will be the same. I have no doubt it will improve.”