Livingston 2 Ross County 0: Lions live to fight another day after closing gap on drop rivals

By Ian Steven

Hope still exists in the faintest of forms for Livingston in their battle to escape relegation thanks to a determined 2-0 win over Motherwell, leading to manager David Martindale praising his Lions side for their “intensity, application and ability.”

A predatory Bruce Anderson finish coupled with a handball-inspired Sean Kelly penalty was enough to close the gap to Livi’s Highland opponents to nine points with four games remaining, leaving the manager still soberly realistic about the battle to beat the drop.

“It gives you hope but I’ve also got to be pragmatic,” Martindale stated.

"Winning isn’t going to change the way I think about the game. We’ll go away, pick up three points, come in and try to win three points again on Saturday. I’m not delusional and we know the task.

"We only have ourselves to blame but we dug out three points and that’s all you can do. It’s how I’ve operated at Livi for the last eight years.

“I don’t like putting targets on things because at this level at a club this size there’s a good chance you’ll fail so how do you deal with that adversity? In a good season we win 33 percent of our games. What am I doing 67 percent of the time? Trying to pick players and staff up. Nothing is going to change in my approach and how I manage.

“I’m a big advocate of goals changing games and it gave us a foothold in the game.

"County dominated more possession than I’d have liked. We created some really good chances and defended our 18-yard box really well.

"The one negative is we could have dealt better with the counter. We exposed them on the counter but went for the wrong execution. But our intensity, application and ability was there for all to see and that’s testament to the players.”

The Lions took the lead in 11 minutes thanks to some atrocious defending from Ross County as Ryan Leak was woefully short with header back to his keeper, Ross Laidlaw, allowing the predatory Anderson to sneak in and lob the ball into an empty net for his sixth goal in the last five outings against the Staggies.

The home side were awarded a penalty just after the restart as Michee Efete was ruled to have handled in the box. Sean Kelly had no hesitation firing his spot kick past the flailing Laidlaw.

Ross County had a shout for a penalty in 70 minutes as it looked like the ball cannoned off a Livingston hand in the box, but the VAR check ruled inconclusive.

While remaining stoic, Martindale did offer an insight into his beliei that fortune may be changing in West Lothian.

He said: “There have been a lot of similar performances but we’ve come out the wrong end of the result. There are different variables - VAR decisions can go against you, sendings off - but probably the big one for me was we've had really bad moments when we've made a real poor decision as individuals which affect the group.

“I’ve put talk of relegation away. We’ve spoken about it as a group previously, pre-January.

"It’s been hanging over our heads for seven months. You then focus on that next game and that’s all I do.

"How I come into work four Mondays ago won't change how I come in this Monday.

"You'd be daft if you hadn't spoken about it as a group.”