Motherwell 4 Livingston 1: Nicholson and Bair bury Lions and send them to Championship

A sensational Sam Nicholson strike and a Theo Bair double helped Motherwell boost their bid to finish seventh in the Premiership - and relegated Livingston in the process.

Nicholson's 30-yard thunderbolt in first-half stoppage time lit up Fir Park either side of Bair's brilliant brace, one an emphatic penalty and the other a fine header, ensured the writing was on the wall for the visitors after 68 minutes. Dan Casey added a fourth before substitute Joel Nouble managed a consolation on what proved to be a dark day for the Lions.

The West Lothian side haven't won in North Lanarkshire since 2002 and their hoodoo continued here on yet another dismal day at the office for David Martindale's men, who now know for sure they will be playing Championship football next season.

For Motherwell, the win leaves them just two points behind seventh place Hibs in the battle to finish best of the bottom six, heading into the final three games of the campaign.

The Steelmen - who went into the game without a win in their last four home matches - made two changes from last week's defeat at Aberdeen. Davor Zdravkovski and the suspended Jack Vale dropped out, so in came Andy Halliday and Sam Nicholson. For the Lions, they named the same side that enjoyed a 2-0 win over Ross County the previous week, while striker Joel Nouble was back on the bench.

Inside the second minute the hosts gave Livingston an early warning when a neat move sent Nicholson darting into the box and he fired into the side netting from six-yards.

Four minutes later, Livi star Bruce Anderson got in behind Paul McGinn and raced in on goal, only for the Motherwell defender to make up his ground and deflect the striker's effort behind for a corner, which came to nothing.

Sean Kelly had an incredible opportunity to lob namesake Liam in the Motherwell goal in eight minutes. The Lions broke from a Well corner and, with Liam miles out of his goal, Sean had the chance to fire an effort over or round the Scotland international, but choose to hone in on goal and ended up curling an effort wide under pressure from backtracking defenders.

And that came back to haunt the Lions when Motherwell were awarded a penalty moments later, following a lengthy VAR check. Georgie Gent's cross was eventually judged to have been blocked by the arm of Mikey Devlin and Bair stepped up to fire the spot-kick into the bottom corner past Shamal George, who had guessed the right way.

In 31 minutes Livingston thought they had equalised when Scott Pittman superbly headed home from Daniel Mackay's cross, but it was pulled back for a foul in the build-up and the visiting supporters quickly fell silent.

Bair will feel he should have added a second for the Steelmen in 39 minutes when Gent clipped the ball to the back post, finding him unmarked. But the man named in the PFA Premiership Team of the Year headed straight at George from six-yards.

It looked like the hosts would go in just a goal to the good at the break, but Nicholson had other ideas. He collected Stephen O'Donnell's pass around 30-yards from goal and unleashed an unstoppable strike into the top corner, off the underside of the bar, to leave the Lions stunned at the interval.

Nicholson almost doubled his tally for the day when Gent whipped in a tantalising delivery across the face of goal, but when the striker came sliding in at the back post it just evaded him and the Lions beathed a sigh of relief.

Martindale threw on Nouble and Stephen Bradley to see if his side could muster their way back into the game. However, Motherwell put the game to bed in the 68th minute when a outstanding delivery from Gent picked out Bair and he stooped to power a header into the top corner to take his tally for the season to 15 goals.

In 74 minutes Dan Casey poked the ball home from a Balir Spittal cross to compound Livingston's misery, but they did give the visiting support something to cheer about moments later when Nouble looped a header over Liam Kelly and into the net for a consolation.

Motherwell are back in action next Saturday when they travel to Ross County, while Livingston host St Johnstone.

MOTHERWELL: Kelly, Blaney, Casey (Butcher 90), McGinn, Gent (Ross 90), Miller, O'Donnell, Halliday (Paton 67), Bair, Spittal, Nicholson (Zdravkovski 67).

Scorers: Bair 21 (pen), 68, Nicholson 45+2, Casey 74

Bookings: Miller, Zdravkovski

Subs not used: Oxborough, Mugabi, Ferrie, Shaw, Moses.

LIVINGSTON: George, Devlin, Sean Kelly, Nottingham, Obileye (Bradley 61), Stephen Kelly, Pittman, Holt (Yengi 45), Mackay (Nouble 61), Brandon, Anderson (Shinnie 74).

Scorers: Nouble 77


Subs not used: Wright, Carson, Montano, Sangare, Guthrie.

HT: 1-0

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