Livi made it three consecutive top-flight wins for the first time since November 2001 with a narrow but well-deserved win over Hamilton Academical at the Tony Macaroni Arena that moved them up to third in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
In the two sides’ first-ever Premiership meeting, a wonder goal from Steven Lawless inside three minutes was enough to secure the three points for the Lions and maintain Gary Holt’s 100% record since taking charge.
The Livi boss stuck with the same starting line-up from the win over Hibernian before the international break and his decision was almost vindicated within the first minute as Liam Kelly’s goal kick was misjudged by Delphin Tshiembe which allowed Scott Robinson in behind but he couldn’t get enough on his effort and Gary Woods was able to gather.
It wasn’t long before the Lions were rewarded for their strong start with a spectacular opener on three minutes as Keaghan Jacobs’ free kick broke to Lawless and he unleashed a stunning first-time effort which flew past the helpless Woods into the top corner for his first Livi goal – that it came against Accies was a bonus for the ex-Motherwell man!
Livi were in control and another fine kick out from Kelly on eight minutes found Ricki Lamie but his header was just too high for Robinson and Woods was able to gather. Robinson then had a decent claim for a penalty four minutes when he latched on to a woeful pass back from Lennard Sowah before appearing to be clipped by the Accies defender but referee Alan Muir was unmoved by his appeals.
Despite their narrow lead, the Lions were looking comfortable and almost had a second on the half-hour mark when, after patient build-up play, Shaun Byrne released Declan Gallagher down the right and his cross was met by Lawless but his glancing header drifted just wide. Dolly Menga then tried his luck from distance two minutes later but his effort flew high over the bar.
The visitors made a change on 33 minutes as Dougie Imrie replaced Scott McMann before Rakish Bingham picked up the first yellow card of the match on 34 minutes for a rash challenge on Alan Lithgow. Lawless then had another half chance shortly after when he found space at the edge of the box but his effort was comfortably saved by Woods as Livi were kept to a single goal lead at the interval.
Half-time: Livingston 1-0 Hamilton Academical
The Lions were agonisingly close to doubling their lead within a minute of the restart as Jacobs’ free kick was met by Lithgow but his header was kept out by a superb save from Woods, who tipped his effort on to the post. Gallagher then picked up a yellow card for a late challenge as the visitors cleared their lines.
Another chance came Livi’s way on 53 minutes as Lamie did brilliantly to head the ball across goal for Menga but he snatched at his shot and it trickled wide of the near post. Lamie was involved again two minutes later, teeing up Pittman to fire a low shot just wide.
The visitors made a rare foray forward on 56 minutes and Fredrik Brustad fired a shot harmlessly
wide before Craig Halkett picked up an absurd yellow card after he was adjudged to have fouled Imrie who, to say the least, made the most of what little, if any, contact there was. Accies captain Darian MacKinnon was then extremely fortunate to escape with only a caution for a horrendous tackle on the Livi skipper.
The Lions made their first change on 66 minutes as Steve Lawson came on for goalscorer Lawless before the visitors made their second switch a minute later as one-time Livi loanee Steven Boyd replaced Brustad. A second Lions change on 75 minutes saw Ryan Hardie make his return to action to a rousing reception as he came on for Robinson, who was named sponsors’ man of the match.
Substitutions were dominating proceedings now and Accies made their final switch six minutes from time, James Keating’s replacing Sowah, before Livi followed suit, sending on Bobby Burns for his Lions debut in place of Menga.
Livi had a late chance to seal the points on 88 minutes when Pittman did well to win possession before attempting to square for Lawson only to see his cut back blocked. It mattered little as the Lions played out five minutes of added time with ease to secure a crucial, and merited, three points.
Full-time: Livingston 1-0 Hamilton Academical
Livingston: Kelly, Lamie, Gallagher, Halkett, Lithgow, Byrne, Pittman, Robinson (Hardie 78), Jacobs, Lawless (Lawson 67), Menga (Burns 88)
Subs not used: Stewart, Cadden, Hamilton, Kaja
Goals: Lawless (3)
Hamilton Academical: Woods, McMann (Imrie 33), Gordon, Tshiembe, Kilgallon, Bingham, Miller, MacKinnon, Martin, Brustad (Boyd 67), Sowah (Keatings 86)
Subs not Used: McGowan, Triwo, Want, Fulton
Referee: Alan Muir
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine