J.E.T’s stunning goal helps Livingston seal top six
Livingston’s first win in seven games saw them confirm their place in the Scottish Premiership’s top six ahead of the split, as they defeated Hamilton at home. Taylor Murray reports.
Saturday’s match at the Tony Macaroni Arena held importance for both teams involved. Should Livingston have won, they would secure their place in the top six for the second year running. Should Hamilton have won, they would have moved four points clear of Kilmarnock at the bottom of the league. Form dictated that Accies could grab a result – the away side had only lost one of their last six matches, while Livi had been winless since the 2nd of February.
David Martindale made five changes to the team that lost away at Fir Park last Saturday – Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, Steve Lawson, Josh Mullin, Julien Serrano and Matej Poplatnik all dropped out, with Jackson Longridge, Jason Holt, Scott Pittman, Alan Forrest and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas all being drafted into the starting 11.
Meanwhile, Brian Rice made three changes to the team that drew away at Pittodrie – Scott McMann, David Moyo and Nathan Thomas were replaced in this Accies team by Kyle Munro, Callum Smith and Bruce Anderson.
Livingston got the game underway and brought about the first talking point of the game, as Nicky Devlin was shown a yellow card after just five minutes for a late challenge on an Accies defender.
While both sides were doing their best to create chances in the opening 10 minutes, nothing of note came from their efforts. However, there were a couple of nervous moments from Hamilton keeper Ryan Fulton, who twice failed to get a safe grasp on deliveries into his box.
After 16 minutes played, the home side broke the deadlock. After receiving the ball from a throw in, Devlin played a pass to the feet of Emmanuel-Thomas. The Livi striker produced a moment of magic as he flicked the ball up in the box and, on the twist, volleyed the ball with his right-foot, sending the effort flying into the top left-hand corner. Livingston had themselves in front in impressive fashion and would be hoping they could do enough in the rest of the match to secure their first three points in well over a month.
However, J.E.T’s goal kicked Hamilton into life – 15 minutes later, Callum Smith picked the ball up on the left-hand side and tried his luck from 25 yards out. The effort beat Livi keeper Robbie McCrorie, who had otherwise had very little to do and suddenly, Accies were right back in this game.
Livingston were not about to take this equaliser sitting down and just five minutes later, they were back in front. Devlin was looking dangerous again, bursting down the right flank before firing a driven pass into the box, hoping to find an arriving Livi shirt. He was unable to find a man free, his cross bouncing back off of Lee Hodson’s chest, but Pittman burst into the box and tapped the loose ball into the back of Fulton’s net to restore Livi’s advantage. 10 minutes later, the referee brought the half to a close, with the home side going into half time with the lead.
If the first half was full of life, through good football and great goals, the second half was the complete opposite. Both sides lacked in terms of creating chances, with nice moves being scrapped for dogged defending and hoofball. Both teams had some soft shouts for a penalty, but referee Kevin Clancy waved away both calls.
Of the two sides, it was Hamilton who created the best chances of the half. In the 58th minutes, Accies played some good football, finding some space down the left-hand side. The ball was whipped into the box, with the subsequent clearance landing at the feet of Aaron Martin. He controlled the ball and fired on goal, but the effort was always rising and flew comfortably over McCrorie’s goal.
Accies had the chance to level things in the 78th minutes, as for the first time in the match, Ross Callachan got in behind a stubborn Livingston defence. Playing a cross-cum-shot across the face of goal, all he needed was the slightest of touches to take it towards goal, but the ball evaded all onrushing Hamilton men, going behind for a goal kick.
The rest of the match fizzled out from there and as Clancy blew his whistle for the final time, Livingston were secure in achieving a second consecutive top six finish. Hamilton, on the other hand, blew a good chance to move level on points with Ross County, who had lost to Hibs at home.
David Martindale was full of praise for Jay Emmanuel-Thomas’ spectacular opening goal, explaining that this is a regular sight in training:
“Jay’s goal was brilliant, I thought it was a fantastic goal. This is the type of type of thing I see in training every week, if not better.
“It has been frustrating getting him up to speed, but I have to say today he was brilliant, the difference in the two teams.”
On the topic of securing a top six place, Martindale was very complimentary of everyone that has helped get the club into this position:
“it is an unbelievable effort from everyone at the club to get into this position… if you asked me at the start of the season if I would have taken 5th with five games to go then, of course, I will take it.
Hamilton boss Brain Rice was devastated to lose the game in the fashion he did, however he spoke about how his players will bounce back:
“We lost two poor goals today but scored a terrific one ourselves, but you’ve got to give it the big man (Emmanuel-Thomas) as it was a fantastic goal.
“The battle goes on; I think you see that. Livingston is a very hard place to come to at any time, but I see the boys out there battling for the ball. Everyone out there is giving all they have got and that’s what we demand, that’s what it takes to be a Hamilton player.”
As the Premiership prepares for the final round of fixtures before the split, Hamilton host St Mirren as the Buddies look to maintain that final spot in the top six whilst the winners on the day, Livingston, will host Hibernian, already knowing they are safe in the top six.