HEARTS boss Craig Levein says the return of Uche Ikpeazu was the silver lining from an otherwise underwhelming 0-0 draw against Livingston.
The Scot had no complaints with his side’s work ethic against the Lions but admitted they lacked the quality to turn one point into three.
However, the return of Ikpeazu as a 65th-minute substitute briefly roused the Tynecastle faithful, with the powerhouse striker making his comeback following four months on the sidelines due to a foot injury.
Indeed, the Englishman came close to capping his comeback with a late goal, with his close-range header saved by Liam Kelly.
Levein said: “It was brilliant to see him back. I thought we were better when he came on. We had a way of playing earlier in the season where everybody knew what we were doing.
“We lost that a little bit and with Uche coming back into the team, I could see instantly that we had a better shape and a better idea of what we were doing in the final third.
“He’ll get some game-time on Sunday [against Auchinleck Talbot] and I’m just really pleased to see him back.
“He has come back in good condition. I love his enthusiasm and his energy – he doesn’t hold back. He will help the team, without a shadow of a doubt, in the weeks and months ahead.”
Hearts saw an early Steven Naismith goal disallowed for offside but, beyond that, struggled to carve Livi open.
Levein added: “I can’t complain about the work-rate and the effort of the team, I thought there was loads of that.
“I thought we lacked a bit of quality in the last third; something different to win us the match.”
Meanwhile, Gary Holt believes going back to basics was key to Livingston claiming their first point of 2019.
Holt said: “It’s baby steps for us and I think that’s what we need to get back to. Maybe we got a bit over-confident, thinking we could go to places and out-play teams, match them and win the game. It’s not going to happen.
“We need to do the ugly side of the game first and foremost and we saw that against Hearts. People were putting their bodies on the line, getting blocks, headers, second balls – being prepared to get hurt. That’s what we are about.
“This gives the boys a wee boost, a wee shot in the arm.”