We’re finally seeing the best of Clare – Macphee

Sean Clare’s first goal for Hearts was enough to secure them a place in the Scottish Cup fifth round at the expense of Livingston.

In the next round they host Auchinleck Talbot, who they beat on their way to winning the trophy in 2012.

Clare’s curling effort early in the second half settled a stuffy cup tie at Tynecastle that took a while to spark into life.

Livi had chances to force a replay, Ryan Hardie in particular going close.

However, Hearts showed a resilience in defence that had been missing before the winter break and saw off the late pressure.

Three debutants were pitched into the fray from the start – David Vanecek and Conor Shaughnessy for Hearts and Gregg Wylde for Livingston, a team that did not just beat Hearts the last time the clubs faced other but battered them.

Livi’s 5-0 annihilation of the Jambos last month was a little freakish. After half an hour of this cup tie the prospect of one goal, never mind five, seemed a little hopeful. It was bitingly cold at Tynecastle and, until things improved later on, stultifyingly dull.

So much grunt and so little accuracy, so many tackles and high balls and very little in the way of composure. It took 35 minutes to see a shot on target – from Wylde – and if there was anybody smiling at Tynecastle at that point it would have been their manager Gary Holt.

Livi would have been thrilled with a replay given how good their home form has been this season. They’ve won eight league games and seven have been in their own stadium.

That hope of the stalemate lasting began to come under threat when Hearts started to put it together a little in the closing minutes of the opening half.

And it suffered a major blow early in the new half when Hearts took the lead. It was pretty slick, too. Steven Naismith’s hard work in winning the ball in the Livi half started it all, then, seconds later, Naismith played it into Vanecek who swept it on nicely to Clare who curled a gorgeous shot low past Liam Kelly.

Hearts could have put themselves into a seriously strong position a few minutes later but Callum Morrison saw his shot hoofed off the line by Craig Halkett. That escape sparked Livi into life as an attacking force.

In the space of little over a minute just short of the hour-mark they had three moments and all three had Hearts in bother. First, Halkett and then Scott Pittman drove them downfield for Hardie to have his effort saved by Colin Doyle.

Then Shaun Byrne’s header forced another save from the Hearts goalkeeper. In rapid order, Wylde was through but hammered his shot wildly, and wastefully, over Doyle’s crossbar. It was a poor miss.

Livi spent much of the rest of the day on the front foot. Steven Lawless’ shot went just wide as Hearts were pushed deeper and deeper and were made to do more and more defending. At one point Kelly, the Livi goalkeeper, dinked a hopeful ball into the Hearts box.

The fact that he did it from the halfway line told you much about the way the end-game played out.

Hearts hung on and did so on the back of stout defending. For them, some revenge for the horrors of last month.

One moment of skill – analysis

BBC Scotland’s Brian McLauchlin at Tynecastle

There was never any real chance of Livingston repeating their thumping of Hearts in December. Nevertheless that stunning result was always in the mind of both players and fans of the two teams.

They both looked a little rusty in early exchanges, with the three-week winter break taking the edge off the players.

The West Lothian club have rarely changed their style of play this season and once again the familiarity in their set-up was evident.

Dolly Menga and Hardie were menaces for the Lions, but Shaughnessy looked assured alongside Tynecastle rock Christophe Berra for the home side.

New Hearts striker Vanecek played the lone role upfront and at times could possibly have been helped with support from Naismith and Clare.

Clare in particular has had a difficult time in winning over the home support with some indifferent performances, but his clinical finish from a lovely flick by Vanecek was outstanding and more in tune with what will be required if his move to Edinburgh is to be a success.

It was the one true moment of skill in an otherwise placid cup tie.

But the real key to Hearts victory was the influence Naismith had on the game.

His continued encouragement through the match to both Clare and Morrison was evident and his value to the Tynecastle club is immeasurable.

David Vanecek (left) made his debut up front for Hearts

Hearts assistant manager Austin MacPhee: “All credit to Liam Fox (Hearts coach). He had a nibble at Sean Clare at half-time and he said ‘when are you going to come to life’.

“We brought Sean here to do things that will win us games and hopefully today they saw the start of it.”

Livingston head coach Gary Holt: “I thought it was a good cup tie, I thought both teams were at it. A wee bit more luck for us in the final third and composure we could have created better chances.

“I thought we gave it a right good go but the one really good bit of quality was from them.”

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