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<-Page <-Team Sun 06 Oct 2002 Livingston 1 Hearts 1 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Craig Levein <-auth Alan Pattullo auth-> Willie Young
[B Wilson 41]
1 of 002 Phil Stamp 46 L SPL A

One to stick in the Stamp album

ALAN PATTULLO at Almondvale
Livingston 1 Wilson (41)
Hearts 1 Stamp (46)

HEARTS and Livingston may be operating at different ends of the league, but neither team will have been overly disturbed by the point each gained here. For a Hearts side forced once again to battle back from a goal down the satisfaction might be greater, particularly since they inhabit a world which is currently far removed from Livingston’s perilous frontier.

The point gained here brings them to within a point of third placed Dunfermline. For the home team the draw brings some solace: not only does it stem a six game losing streak in the league but it keeps Dundee United very much in sight as they seek to begin the clamber from bottom place. This at least was the start.

Jim Leishman claimed to be "disappointed", and reflecting on a game which offered his side the clearer chances might indeed have given him some cause for the rueful mood. While Livingston, without a win in the league since the first day of the season, are not quite detached at the basement it was clear form needed to be found, and soon.

Due to the midweek UEFA Cup win over Sturm Graz, a result which came alas without profit, the hosts have not become completely divorced from the concept of victory, and it was from this that inspiration was drawn. Leishman called it a "continuation of Thursday" with the same commitment and determination present.

It still seems strange to see the buccaneers of last season flailing at this end of the league, but then it appears an unwritten law of Scotland’s top league that those who blossom one season must reap a bleak harvest the next. This fate befell Hibs during the last campaign of course, the Easter Road side arresting the slide only in time to prevent relegation.

Judging by the way Livingston began here yesterday, the prospect of a season in which they made their European debut being similarly tarnished was acting to energise a team who had some excuse at least for lethargy.

Despite the strength-sapping 4-3 win over Graz on Thursday night Leishman and assistant David Hay made only one change, starting with Rolando Zarate while Davide Xausa dropped to the bench.

The rationale appeared sound enough: why disrupt a team which has suddenly found the power to win once again? In practice too this theory appeared robust, with Livingston enjoying the better of the first half and then adding substance to the claim by edging ahead four minutes before half time.

The goal had its source in a hefty strike from their own box by goalkeeper Javier-Sanchez Broto, though the ball may never have found a Livingston striker was it not for Hearts defender Kevin McKenna’s intervention.

When attempting to nudge the ball back to debutant Craig Gordon with his head, McKenna succeeded only in directing Broto’s hoof into the path of Wilson. The man who scored the winner over the Austrians in midweek was unlikely to pass up this present, neatly rounding the keeper and then sliding the ball into the empty net.

David Bingham had already found the net for the home team, but an infringement halted his celebrations.

Gordon in the Hearts goal was enjoying a fine afternoon, the finest of his stops preventing Wilson from scoring when released by Bingham. When clasping a later chip from Zarate he stood as erect and as strong as a flooodlight pole.

Those Hearts fans who watched with a degree of envy Antti Niemi preventing Nicolas Anelka from scoring for Manchester City against Southampton on Saturday night’s The Premiership programme can allow themselves some hope in the performance of this teenager, fast-tracked into the side due to Roddy McKenzie’s thigh injury.

He was almost flawless and had already saved McKenna before the defender aided Livingston in their opening goal, racing from his line to collect the ball after a slip by the Canadian almost allowed Wilson in.

Play was not totally confined to the Hearts box. A Steven Boyack shot rose inches too high over Broto’s bar, while Andy Kirk managed to shoot straight at the goalkeeper when presented with a chance.

Mark de Vries toiled up front but was marshalled well by Marvin Andrews.

Time after time the big Livingston defender would propel himself through the air in an effort to gain vital inches on De Vries, his forehead bashing the ball to safety.

His afternoon soured slightly at the end when a heavy tackle on substitute Gary Wales earned him a booking, and almost sparked a full-scale rammy on the touchline. Levein later spared him of any blame, admitting the ball had been there to be won.

By this stage parity had long since been restored. In fact, Livingston, for all they deserved their lead, had only been able to keep it for a matter of minutes. Half time spanned the time between Wilson’s opener and Phil Stamp’s equaliser, but only five minutes had elapsed in terms of playing time.

Relief spilled from the Hearts bench as Stamp curled an exquisite shot into the top corner of the net after being released by Jean Louis Valois, with only 50 seconds of the second half having elapsed.

It was Stamp’s first goal for the club and his first since scoring at Anfield for Middlesbrough 18 months ago. "He was magnificent," said Levein, truthfully.

The home team might have scored the goal they so yearned in the closing minutes but Xausa clipped a bar and then Francisco Quino drilled an effort into the stand when a more precise finish might have brought better reward.

Instead the draw brings Livingston to within a point of United with the teams due to meet at Tannadice in just under a fortnight’s time.

Livingston: Broto, McNamee, Rubio, Andrews, Bollan, Quino, Hart, O’Brien (Toure-Maman 71), Wilson, Zarate (Camacho 78), Bingham (Xausa 54). Subs not used: McEwan, Bahoken.

Hearts: Gordon, Maybury, Pressley, McKenna, McMullan, Boyack, Stamp, Severin (Simmons 76), Valois (Weir 90), de Vries, Kirk (Wales 65). Subs not used: Windrum, Webster.

Referee: W Young. Attendance: 6,512

Taken from the Scotsman

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