THE prolonged palaver of bringing in Daniel Stendel as the new Hearts manager was described yesterday by the club’s owner, Ann Budge, as a “tortuous process.” Nothing, meanwhile, is more torturous than actually watching Hearts these days.

The late salvaging of a point against Livingston last night merely added another roll of paper over the sizeable cracks. When Stendel does come in, he’ll have a hefty redecorating job to perform.

Livingston, organised, resolute and full of spirit, had been on course for a just a second away win in 26 games thanks to a first half goal from Marvin Bartley. It was the former Hibernian player’s first goal in Scottish football, indeed his first in five years. Only Steven MacLean’s late leveller on 87 minutes, in the midst of a late flourish, prevented Austin MacPhee, the beleaguered Hearts caretaker, suffering a fourth defeat in five games at the helm. It appears he’ll have another match in charge too.

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“I’m led to believe that this (Stendel’s appointment) will be concluded around the start of next week,” revealed MacPhee. “So, at this point, the status quo will remain until the Motherwell game (on Saturday). But these things can change at any time. I deal with things day to day, hour to hour, so I’ll prepare the team for Motherwell. The way they played late in this game gives me great heart. You can’t accuse those players out there of giving up. They fought for each other."

Hearts made five changes to the side walloped 5-0 at Ibrox at the weekend and were forced into another one as kick-off loomed when Aaron Hickey injured himself in the warm up and Jamie Brandon was promoted into the starting XI.

With the general mood as gloomy as a covering of east coast haar over Arthur’s Seat, Hearts at least began with a bit of pep. Craig Halkett nodded a header wide while Steven Naismith had a shot blocked by the Livingston keeper before Halkett plonked another header off target from a corner. The old ‘heid like a 50 pence piece’ grumble was being spouted not long after when Sean Clare was presented with a glorious chance but his use of the noggin was woefully miscued.

The loss through injury of Naismith – who had been clattered early on by Bartley and departed before the half hour to be replaced by MacLean – was a real dunt to the Hearts morale and the brittle confidence took another sore one when Livingston forged ahead on 32 minutes. A long throw in caused panic in the Hearts rearguard and Bartley pounced on a favourable ricochet to hook a fine finish into the net. At that point, a brassed off supporter ran down from the stand to hurl his scarf onto the pitch in disgust. It was just about the best Hearts move of the half.

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The second period brought little in the way of respite for the hosts as a torrent of boos and throaty profanities provided a grim soundtrack to proceedings. The jeers did turn to cheers in the last knockings, though, as MacLean seized on the debris of a melee to fire in an equaliser.

Gary Holt, the Livingston manager, was philosophical in his summing up. “It’s not really a sickener,” he said. “Over the piece, especially in the first half, we were very fortunate to go a goal up. They had four exceptional chances caused by our own sloppiness. Yes, it’s disappointing to lose a late goal but it was a good battling point.”