Hearts 0-1 Kilmarnock: Craig Levein hopes stars return to help beleaguered side

Hearts striker Steven MacLean is denied by Kilmarnock goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann
Hearts striker Steven MacLean was thwarted by Kilmarnock goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann

Hearts manager Craig Levein is praying some of his injured stars are "back soon" as he lamented a lack of cutting edge in their 1-0 defeat by Kilmarnock.

Ross Millen's second-half strike consigned the Premiership leaders to a second consecutive defeat.

"We've played a lot worse and won," Levein told BBC Scotland.

"But the type of game it was, I just felt we didn't have enough quality in the final third of the field to enable us to punish Kilmarnock."

Levein is hoping that centre-half Christophe Berra and Scotland team-mate Steven Naismith will be back from long-term injury sometime in December.

"I think Christophe will be first back, then Steven Naismith," the manager said. "We've managed to get by but we're not picking up as many points without them."

Hearts have now gone four games without a win and will lose top spot should Celtic beat Livingston on Sunday - and Levein is hoping the international break comes at the right time for his players.

"We'll go away and have a period of rest and then come back refreshed and ready to go," he said.

Levein's side have also not scored in four games during the absence of Naismith and injured fellow forward Uche Ikpeazu.

"Losing 1-0 after playing reasonably well is the most frustrating of all defeats," he said. "Kilmarnock created far less than us and won, so we created enough in front of goal.

"Kilmarnock scored and game themselves something to hang on to, but we should have been in front long before then."

Levein was asked about three penalty shouts for his side in the first half.

"It is difficult to see, but it did look like they were penalties to me, although I haven't had a chance to look at them again," he added. "I don't want to dwell too long on this. It is a performance that should have won us all three points, but that happens."

Killie should be higher - Clarke

Kilmarnock move into third spot, two points behind Hearts, but manager Steve Clarke thinks they should have had "more points" as they ended a run of three games without a win.

"I think we should be higher in the league," he said. "I am probably a little bit disappointed with our points tally to be honest.

"But it is nice at this stage of the season to be so far away from the bottom two and if we can pick up a lot more points over the next eight matches over the winter break then maybe, if we do it properly between now and the winter break, then we can think about mounting a serious challenge for the top six again."

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