Robbie Neilson lamented the manner in which Hearts relinquished control after they suffered a fifth defeat in six games away to Livingston.
The Jambos started well at the Tony Macaroni Arena but fell behind to a 28th-minute goal from Cristian Montano and never really looked like equalising.
“First 20 minutes we did well, did everything we spoke about, and then we got caught up in the game,” said Hearts boss Neilson. “We weren’t good enough after that, we didn’t do enough to deserve to win the game.”
Asked about why they lost their way after such a bright start, Neilson said: “That was a big frustration. We spoke at half-time about trying to get back to that again. The whole game-plan when you come here is to take it out of the pressure areas because they want to come after you centrally.
“First 20 minutes we were great, switching play, getting it wide, getting deliveries. And then the game starts to break up a wee bit and we start forcing the ball into the middle areas.
“They get regains, they start breaking on you, start getting shots on goal and the whole momentum of the game turned. That was the disappointing thing.”
Neilson dismissed any suggestion that Hearts – hit by injuries to key men as they adapt to the demands of European football – are lacking belief.
“No,” he said when asked about low confidence potentially being a factor in his side’s display. “It’s just when you come here it’s a difficult place to come.
“If you play Livingston’s style of play they’ll beat you because they’re better at it so you have to play your own game. We did for the first 20 minutes then we got caught up in the game.”
Hearts felt Montano might have been offside when he latched on to Jason Holt’s free-kick to score the only goal of the game.
“The boy breaks the line early,” said Neilson. “I think he’s offside by the look of it. One of our players at the back drops a bit early with Obileye and that’s maybe played him on. I thought it was offside but I might be wrong.”
Livingston boss David Martindale felt his tactical tweak, in which he moved central striker Joel Nouble out to the left and switched from a 4-4-1-1 to a 4-3-3 shortly before the goal, helped his team gain a foothold.
“I don’t think the 4-4-1-1 was working,” he said. “We changed the shape to two wingers and a striker and I think that really, really helped us.
“I did expect the second half to be a wee bit different to how it panned out. I thought we controlled a lot of it as we limited Hearts to very, very little chances in the final third and over the piece we had the best chances in the game, first half and second half.
“I just wish the boys would go and score two goals because my heart was in my mouth sometimes.”
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