After Hamilton were demolished at Rugby Park on Saturday, there was a quick turn around and time to give a reaction on Wednesday when they travelled the short trip down to Livingston. The Almondvale side have had a dream season and proved so many people wrong. They would have been tipped by almost everyone to finish in the bottom two but after beating Accies on Wednesday it mathematically guarantees safety next season, although it wasn’t in any doubt anyway. Livi have went off the boil recently but it isn’t much of a surprise as they have nothing to play for now. They cant get much higher and certainly cant get lower. They actually went on a winless run from December to February, but it was the exceptional form earlier in the season that’s proved vital, with wins over Rangers and holding Celtic to a draw. They also hit Hearts for five in December before the horrible vein of form.
Its clear that a couple of SPL sides are sniffing around for a few of the Lion’s players in the summer after the impressive first season in the top flight. The first loss will be captain Craig Halkett who was snapped up by Craig Levein and Hearts on Monday evening on a pre-contract. The 23 year-old agreed a three year deal and will move to Tynecastle when his contract ends in the summer. Declan Gallagher has also been linked with Motherwell and St Johnstone. I would be surprised if no one came in for goalkeeper Liam Kelly, who has been unbelievable this season.
Brian Rice stated he was the most embarrassed he has been in his 40 year footballing career on Saturday after the dreadful day in North Ayrshire last Saturday. He demanded a reaction on Livingston during the week but I didn’t see one so I’m seriously concerned We now host St Mirren on Saturday, in what is the biggest game of the season. I believe if we win we are safe. 7 points ahead of the Buddies and 9 points ahead of Dundee would be to much for them to reel in.
Gary Holt made two changes from the 2-1 defeat against the highflying Hibees on Friday night with Hakeem Odoffin and Ciaron Brown being replaced by Ryan Hardie and Ricki Lamie.
Everyone was expecting changes in the Accies side for Wednesday nights game but I was left completely baffled when I saw the team to be honest. I felt as if we had one eye on the huge game this Saturday. There was 4 changes from the Killie game with Matt Kilgallon, Lenny Sowah, Alex Gogic and Mickel Miller all dropping out. They were replaced by Delphin Tshiembe, David McMillan and young Regan Mimnaugh, while there was a return at left-back for Scott McMann, who has been out injured since February.
The game got underway at the very cold Tony Macaroni Arena. It was a similar start to Saturday with Accies not starting well and they nearly went 1-0 down instantly after just a minute on the clock when the usual long throw-in from Livi caused chaos in the Hamilton box. The ball was flicked on by Keaghan Jacobs onto Ryan Hardie, who headed over inside the six-yard box.
The visitors were forced into an early substitution as Aaron McGowan looked in some discomfort before being subbed off for Alex Gogic.
I have been extremely concerned about our quality in the last two weeks as we were struggling to create anything here. I don’t even think Liam Kelly had touched the ball as of yet. The hosts had the ball in the net after 25 minutes when a corner into the box connected with Declan Gallagher, who rose highest of all at the back post, before powering a header in the net. The Livi man was all over the Accies defender and referee Alan Muir quite rightly disallowed the goal.
The Lions are probably one of the hardest team to defend a set piece against. Its like a penalty kick to them. They came inches away from breaking the deadlock on the 37th minute when a deep cross was played down towards Ryan Hardie, who’s thumping effort was cleared off the line by Delphin Tshiembe.. Hardie almost scored another header when once again a cross found the Scotsman, but he diverted his header straight at Gary Woods.
A dominant half by the Lions.
Half Time- Livingston 0-0 Hamilton
It was an absolute nightmare start to the second period for Accies as they gifted Livingston the opening goal just two minutes into the second half. I have no idea what Tshiembe was trying to do but he headered the ball straight to Scott Robinson, who played a over-the-top ball towards Hardie. The striker then found himself in-behind the Accies defenders, allowing him to run clear through on goal and slot it under Woods.
The game should have been dead and buried after 55 minutes when again, Robinson was sent scampering down the line before his deep cross towards the back-post found Scott Pittman, but his effort was headed into the side-netting. The hosts had another excellent chance to kill the game and were only denied a second this time by an excellent block on the line by Gogic as A cross by Jacobs was unconvincingly punched clear by Woods as it landed straight at the feet of Craig Sibbald. The Livi winger took a touch and drilled it low towards goal but Gogic blocked it on the line.
The Lions did make it 2-0 eventually with the travelling supporters all knowing it was a matter of time until the second goal would arrive. A long throw-in was partially dealt with before the second ball ended up at the feet of Sibbald. He has acres of space to look up and deliver a perfect cross into the box which was met by the head of Craig Halkett, who bulleted a header high into the net after easily outjumping Tshiembe.
Its quite embarrassing to say Accies first opportunity didn’t come until the 88th minute. A long ball was brilliantly flicked on by Steve Davies, sending Mickel Miller clean through on goal. The Englishman’s raced towards goal before his effort was saved by the outstretched leg of Liam Kelly before the follow-up effort by David McMillan was gathered on the line by the Livingston shot stopper, who had probably had the easiest night of the season.
Another awful performance and not a night to remember. I hope something changes for Saturday, when we host St Mirren in what is the biggest game of the season by a country mile.
Full Time- Livingston 2-0 Hamilton
Kelly, Gallagher, Halkett, Lithgow, Lawson, Lamie(46), Pittman, Jacobs, Sibbald, Robinson(84), Hardie(81)
Subs- Stewart, Odofin, Byrne, De Vita(81), Erskine, Lawless(84) , Menga(46)
Woods, McGowan(19), Tshiembe, Gordon, McMann, Mackinnon, Martin, McMillan, Mimnaugh, Andreu(65), Oakley(69)
Subs- Fulton, Sowah, Kilgallon, Gogic(19), Smith, Miller(65), Davies(69)
Referee- Alan Muir
Assistants- Brian Templeton & Ivan Stankovic
Fourth Official- Steven Reid
Goals- Hardie(47), Halkett(79)
Yellow Cards- Robinson(13), Lithgow(33), Andreu(62), Miller(66)
Red Cards- 0