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Heckingbottom lauds ‘great’ attitude of players as Hibs claim hard-fought win

Hibernian head coach Paul Heckingbottom hailed the attitude of his players after revealing he told them to make the encounter more scrappy in order to overcome a stubborn Livingston side.

The capital club climbed into fifth spot in the Ladbrokes Premiership with a hard-fought 2-1 triumph over the Lions. Second-half strikes from Paul Hanlon and Stevie Mallan did the damage before Ryan Hardie pulled a goal back from the penalty spot in injury time.

Hibs have now racked up 16 points from a possible 18 in the league since Heckingbottom took charge – and he believes his charges showed their versatility by going back to basics following an underwhelming first period.

Heckingbottom said: “It was hard work. It was probably hard work for those watching!

“However, you’ve got to give Livingston credit. They did their homework and showed exactly why they’ve been a really tough nut to crack.

“They stopped us playing forward early, stopping any forward passes we made, so we couldn’t get a tempo going and couldn’t break them down. So, we had to change the tempo, play forward earlier and win more tackles and headers.

“Basically, we wanted the game to get scrappier because it was the only way we could change it. Credit to our lads, they have a great attitude and showed a will to win.”

Heckingbottom’s counterpart – and former Norwich team-mate – Gary Holt was left to rue the manner of Hibs’ opener in the 71st minute which took the wind out of the hosts’ sails at a time when a 0-0 draw looked the most likely outcome.

A Mallan corner-kick was flicked on by David Gray, allowing Hanlon to turn home from close range.

He said: “To lose the first goal from a corner is very frustrating. If your man gets a goal from a corner or free-kick and you’ve got a broken nose or a cut trying to stop him, fair enough.

“But their man (Gray) gets a free header for the flick-on. That can’t happen. The first goal is a killer.”