Levein relishes pressure after Hearts win Edinburgh derby

Craig Levein insisted he relished the pressure situation he emerged from at Easter Road and hailed his players for handling the heat.

Levein was told he was getting sacked by all four sides of Easter Road after Hibernian midfielder Stevie Mallan struck a spectacular opener two minutes into the second half of an Edinburgh derby from which both teams were desperate for points.

Hearts had not troubled Hibs goalkeeper Chris Maxwell up until that point but they recorded a 2-1 victory thanks to goals in the final 20 minutes from striker Uche Ikpeazu and 17-year-old full-back Aaron Hickey.

Levein had received the public backing of owner Ann Budge in midweek but a first win in 13 league games, which took Hearts off the bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership, would have been much more welcome after fans protested the previous weekend.

The 54-year-old said: “There’s ways to win games and there’s ways to win games by accumulating another thousand grey hairs. To go behind and come back to win a derby match away from home is special.

“I’m thrilled to bits for the players and of course for the supporters as well.

“This game is different from where we have been struggling recently, which is at home where we are expected to win games and make the running. This is a different type of pressure and the boys handled it.

“First and foremost they didn’t make any mistakes, which has been something that has really been hampering our progress.

“So we were pretty good defensively and restricted Hibs to very few chances, although when Stevie scored from 25 yards or whatever it was I thought ‘maybe it’s not going to be our day’.

“But credit to the boys, they plugged away and kept going and Uche got us back in the game, and then Aaron, who had another smashing game, managed to score the winner in an Edinburgh derby with 5-1 on his back. Not bad at all.”

When asked to elaborate on the pressure he faced, he said: “It was different, that was all. I welcome the pressure in these matches because it’s a different thing and I can have more influence on this type of pressure then I can on the other one I was speaking about.

“I know this game really, really well and I know what’s needed to win it. But you need your players to be 100 per cent at it and I thought their attitude was fantastic. Particularly after we went behind.

“That will help us win back some of the supporters who have been a little bit disgruntled but we need to do much more. It’s a start.”

While the pressure facing Levein alleviated, it intensified on his opposite number. Hibs dropped to second bottom and Paul Heckingbottom has now presided over one victory in 11 league games.

When asked about the pressure, the Hibs head coach said: “I’m feeling it. They are not games you want to lose, whether you’ve been on a good run or a bad run.

“Would I feel any different if we had won two in a row before this? I don’t know, I don’t think I would.

“It’s tough to take. You want the wins, you want to turn things round, you want to put right the things that are going wrong.

“But I wouldn’t call it any different. This is a sickener in its own right. I understand the frustrations, the feelings, it’s a tough one and the manner of the defeat is a tough one.”

When asked whether he feared for his job, he said: “The minute I start worrying about that or making decisions based on that, I’m not doing my job.

“My job, along with the staff and the players, is to put it right on the pitch. Other things aren’t our remit, our decision. We have just got to focus on our jobs, stand up, be strong, act like men and put it right. No hiding place.”

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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