Livingston continued their Fir Park hoodoo on Boxing Day as they made it 12 matches without a victory in Motherwell, with the last win there coming in October 2002.
David Martindale made two changes to the side that drew with Ross County last weekend after Ayo Obileye’s late equaliser. Jack McMillan dropped to the bench whilst Nicky Devlin missed this one through suspension. Sean Kelly was given a rare start, and Jackson Longridge came in for his 150th Livingston appearance.
Motherwell took the lead on 12 minutes with the first real chance of the match. Livi looked to counter from a Well corner, but Alan Forrest was ruled to have pulled the jersey of Nathan McGinley just outside the box in the process. From the resultant free-kick
Kevin van Veen sent an unstoppable strike beyond Max Stryjek into the top corner with the perfect precision and power to give the hosts an early foothold in the match.
Livingston pushed forward and dominated large spells of the first half, but they couldn’t find the back of the net. Despite picking up some great positions in and around the Motherwell penalty area, the visitors just couldn’t find the final pass or finish in order to equalise before the break.
Forrest and Craig Sibbald linked up well on the right before the latter found Sean Kelly on the edge of the box. The midfielder for the afternoon curled an effort towards goal, but it stung the palms of his brother Liam who collected with ease.
Some more nice work down the right from Livi presented Jason Holt with an opportunity from a similar area to Kelly’s earlier effort, but on his weaker left foot the stand-in skipper put too much on his strike and sent it over the bar.
The Lions ended the first half on top, but had nothing to show for their possession as Motherwell came out in the second half looking to kill the game with an early second.
Kevin van Veen found Sean Goss on the overlap and with just Stryjek to beat the midfielder should have done better as he saw his lacklustre strike beaten away by the Polish goalkeeper.
This kept Livingston in the game, however Motherwell would fashion another opportunity. This time, they took it. On 69 minutes, Connor Shields’ cross was met by the head of van Veen and the Dutchman’s glancing effort sailed into the far corner leaving Stryjek helpless and killing the game.
Bruce Anderson was brought on to inject some life into the side, and he added some threat in the forward area. Jack Fitzwater found the striker at the far post but his header was held by Kelly.
With three minutes to play, Livi grabbed a goal back as they looked to produce a late fight for a point. James Penrice’s cutback found substitute Anderson who slotted home to give The Lions that little bit of hope of a comeback.
Livingston pushed for an equaliser which left them vulnerable to a counter attack as van Veen nearly notched his hat trick on the break. Jason Holt did enough to put the striker off his stride as the number nine’s tame effort was saved by the foot of Stryjek.
Anderson’s goal would prove to be just a consolation in the end though as Graham Alexander’s men held on to the three points, which makes it four home wins on the bounce for the Fir Park side.
It’s a disappointing end to 2021 for Livingston, but they remain 8th in the cinch Premiership table with 20 points from 20 matches just after the midway point in the league.
Match Report: Calum Brown
Motherwell: Kelly, O’Donnell, Solholm (Ojala 79), Mugabi, McGinley, Goss, Maguire, Donnelly, Shields (Grimshaw 84), Woolery (Roberts 90), Van Veen
Subs not used: Fox, Amaluzor, Crawford, Watt
Goals: Van Veen (30 & 69)
Livingston: Stryjek, Fitzwater, Obileye, Longridge ▊, Sibbald ▊ (Anderson 60), Holt, Kelly ▊, Omeonga (McMillan 74), Penrice, Shinnie, Forrest (Panayiotou 71)
Subs not used: Maley, Bartley, Hamilton
Goals: Anderson (87)
Referee: Don Robertson