They now have their sights set on a European spot. It’s not bad for a side who only won once in their first eight outings of the season and parted ways in November with their then manager.
David Martindale stepped up to succeed Gary Holt and his side posted their first win in seven outings on Saturday to arrest another alarming run that included the aforementioned defeat at Hampden Park. Martindale urged his players to ensure that the disappointment would not define their season.
A second successive top-six finish ensures this is the case although Livingston won't enjoy the fruits of this success in terms of bigger attendances against the top teams. Last season’s achievement was also tarnished slightly by the season being curtailed.
This win came by way of two very different goals. The first, scored by Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, was among the goals of the season while the other, from Scott Pittman, was a scrappier affair. The latter might nevertheless stand as the club’s most important of the campaign in terms of what it earned. It proved the decisive goal after a wonderful 20-yard-strike from Callum Smith levelled the score just after the half-hour mark.
Emmanuel-Thomas’ opener after 16 minutes was a stunning piece of skill that recalled Thierry Henry’s goal against Manchester United from 2000 when the Arsenal striker flick the ball up to himself before volleying home from the edge of the box.
The Livingston striker, who started his career at Arsenal, was not quite so far out but still showed impressive opportunism from about eight yards when setting the ball up for himself before turning to shoot high into the top corner. Martindale has long expressed the view that Emmanuel-Thomas does not do himself justice in games considering the amount of talent he possesses. “I see that and often better every week in training,” he said afterwards.
Hamilton responded with something a bit special of their own when Smith picked up a loose ball in midfield and drifted away from a couple of defenders before bending a shot into Robby McCrorie’s far corner. However, eight minutes before half-time a cross from the right was chested down by Lee Hodson at the edge of the six-yard-box. He did not bank on Pittman being over his shoulder and able to tap the ball over the line despite Ryan Fulton’s desperate efforts to retrieve the situation.The hosts hung on and can now look upwards. Manager-less Aberdeen are only six points ahead in fourth place.
It’s not all sweetness and light at the Tony Macaroni Arena. Far from it. Scott Robinson, whose semi-final goal against St Mirren secured a second major final appearance for Livi, remains absent from the squad amid speculation that he has signed a pre-contract elsewhere. He led the Lions’ attack in the final against St Johnstone but has not featured since that Hampden outing.
Martindale was tight-lipped afterwards. “He was not available for selection today,” he said. “So, there is not much more I can add to that to be honest.” Asked if Robinson will play again for Livingston, Martindale replied: “Hopefully”.