Alan Lithgow says same but different Livingston can defy odds again

Alan Lithgow is the last man standing from the formidable Livingston defence which provided the bedrock of their impressive return to the top flight last season.

Alan Lithgow knows Livingston will be among the relegation favourites but says the club relishes proving people wrong. Picture: SNS

The summer departures of goalkeeper Liam Kelly and Lithgow’s back three colleagues Craig Halkett and Declan Gallagher have ripped up the combination which kept 14 clean sheets as Livingston secured a ninth place Premiership finish.

Now installed as the new club captain at the West Lothian outfit, Lithgow is ready to take on the responsibility of ensuring Gary Holt’s team prove just as difficult to beat in the new campaign.

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The 31-year-old is confident Livi will again defy those who are tipping them for a relegation struggle but has revealed there will be a significant change in their playing style.

“We are going to try and play a wee bit more,” said Lithgow. “We have changed the formation and I think we need to try and change the way we play.

“Teams are going to expect us to sit off them again, so we need to change our game. I think a couple of teams had sussed us out later last season, so we need to change it up. We can still do the dirty side of it as well, we can still go long. But if we keep adding things to our game, then we are going to get better.

“Teams knew they were in for a tough game against us last season. They would need to do a lot of defending because of the long-ball football we played. But it wasn’t just a punt up the park. It was just longer passes to put defenders under pressure.

“We did show in glimpses we can play a bit as well. In the final third, we played in the right areas.

“I can see why people are saying we will be favourites for relegation again because we have lost some really good players. But we have recruited well and we will be pretty much the same as we were last year.

“Craig and Declan were my partners at the back, so they are a massive loss. Not just for myself, but for the whole team.

“They were big players in the dressing room, personality wise. On the park, they were amazing for us. They knew their jobs and did them really well. They’ve got moves out of it, which they have deserved.

“But I think I was already a leader before. Even though Craig had the armband, I helped organise and speak to the players around us.

“There are other boys there who can lead. We’ve signed Nicky Devlin and Marvin Bartley, who are leaders, and Keaghan Jacobs has been around a while. Ricki Lamie is another one. We’ve got boys who help out with that leadership role.”

Livingston kick off their Premiership campaign at home to Motherwell on Saturday and Lithgow is backing Holt to build on the work which earned him many plaudits last season. “It’s just the way the gaffer keeps us doing the basics really well,” added Lithgow. “He doesn’t over-complicate things, we play simple football, although it might be different this season.

“Last season, we kept everything simple and put teams under pressure whenever we could. We defended well. Livingston is known for that. It’s just hard work – that’s all it is.

“We are used to being written off before the season starts. It’s been like that ever since I’ve been at Livi. Even when we went up to the Championship, teams thought we would struggle.

“We ended up getting promotion to the Premiership and everyone said we would be relegated.

“It’s better for us if people do think that, because then other teams will think it as well. They might take the foot off the gas against us and that’s when we will hurt them.

“We will try and replicate what we did last year, when we had such a good start to the season, and then try to better ourselves. We need to try and get the same number of clean sheets as we managed last 
season, which gives us a chance to go and win games.”