Livi were unable to recover from a nightmare start as three goals in the first 20 minutes gave Motherwell a comfortable Ladbrokes Premiership victory at Fir Park.
A Jake Hastie double either side of Curtis Main’s strike left the Lions with an insurmountable task and allowed Stephen Robinson’s side to move level on points with Gary Holt’s side in eighth place.
The Livi boss made three changes from the defeat to Rangers as Ryan Hardie, Craig Sibbald and Scott Tiffoney came into the starting eleven. Ricki Lamie and Dolly Menga dropped to the bench while Keaghan Jacobs missed out through injury.
The Lions forced a corner inside the first two minutes that was cleared as far as Sibbald but his shot was charged down. The hosts would not be so wasteful when presented with a set-piece opportunity four minutes later as David Turnbull’s free kick from the left was met by Hastie and he glanced his header past Liam Kelly via the inside of the post.
Livi responded well and Hardie was twice able to get in behind the ‘Well defence but, after first seeing his attempted cross blocked for a corner before he was unable to bring a long ball under control and Mark Gillespie was able to gather.
The hosts were unlucky not to double their lead in the tenth minute when Hastie’s shot was blocked by Scott Pittman and the ball fell to Gboly Ariyibi – his shot looked goalbound until his teammate Main got in the way and diverted it wide. Their luck would turn barely a minute later, though, as Allan Campbell slipped in Main and he calmly dinked the ball over Kelly to make it 2-0.
The Lions came close to pulling a goal back on 13 minutes when Tiffoney was released down the left and crossed for Hardie but his effort, aided by a deflection from Richard Tait, was kept out by a fine reaction save from Gillespie. They went close again three minutes later and Hardie and Shaun Byrne combined to tee up Sibbald but his powerful effort fizzed just wide.
There was a let-off for Livi on 18 minutes as Ariyibi jinked in and out of the Lions back line but could only scoop his effort over the bar from close range. The Lions then saw another opportunity passed up a minute later as Pittman drove forward before firing in a low drive that was pushed wide by Gillespie.
The home side would quickly punish the Lions for that as, after the resultant corner was comfortably gathered by Gillespie, he sent Hastie away with a massive throw out and, after both Steven Lawless and Craig Halkett lost their footing, he found himself clean through to fire past Kelly from inside the box.
The scoreline suggested a one-sided affair but it had been fairly even, the home side having simply been far more clinical in the final third. They almost grabbed a fourth on 27 minutes when Ariyibi cut inside and fired in an effort that was deflected wide for a corner.
There was a half chance for the Lions on 33 minutes when Byrne had a go from the edge of the area but he didn’t catch it properly and it trundled harmlessly wide. Chris Erskine then drove in from the right four minutes later and laid off to Hardie. He, in turn, teed up Lawless but he could only send his effort high over the bar.
The Lions had another chance on 40 minutes when Lawless saw an effort blocked and, when the ball popped back to him, he could only fire wide from close range. Tiffoney then saw a mishit cross tipped over the bar by Gillespie, although a goal kick was awarded.
Half-time: Motherwell 3-0 Livingston
Gary Holt made his feelings on his side’s first-half performance perfectly clear as he made all three changes at the interval, sending on Dolly Menga, Steve Lawson and Hakeem Odoffin for Erskine, Lawless and Sibbald.
The second half started with Ariyibi trying to con a penalty from John Beaton, with the referee on the spot to show him a yellow card for diving. Up the other end, Odoffin and Menga linked up well but the latter‘s cross was well overhit and sailed out of play.
The Lions had switched to a back four at the interval and looked far more stable, Turnbull restricted to a long-range effort on 57 minutes that Kelly saved well. Kelly then produced another save to deny Tom Aldred, Declan Gallagher then clearing the follow-up off the line.
Livi’s improvement at the back turned the match into much more of a midfield battle with chances at a premium, a glancing Gallagher header from an Alan Lithgow long throw on 69 minutes about the best of it in the early stages of the second half.
The home side made their first change on 73 minutes, Elliot Frear replacing Ariyibi, before the Lions had another chance three minutes later as Gallagher’s flick found Halkett but he only prod the ball straight at Gillespie from close range. Halkett then tried his luck from much further out but sent his effort well wide.
Motherwell made their second change on 77 minutes as Main was replaced by James Scott before Ross McCormack came on for Hastie four minutes later in their final switch. Shaun Byrne had a go from the edge of the box on 83 minutes but could only fire over the bar.
The match was petering out but the Lions came within inches of a consolation goal that they probably would have deserved for their second half efforts as Tiffoney curled in an effort from the edge of the area that crashed back off the post. Menga then shot over from a similar position in the final minute as a frustrating afternoon left the Lions still looking for their first goal of 2019.
Full-time: Motherwell 3-0 Livingston
Motherwell: Gillespie, Grimshaw, Aldred, Dunne, Tait, Campbell, Gorrin, Turnbull, Hastie (McCormack 81), Main (Scott 78), Ariyibi (Frear 73)
Subs not used: McHugh, Hartley, Ferguson, Johnson
Goals: Hastie (6, 21), Main (12)
Livingston: Kelly, Gallagher, Halkett, Lithgow, Lawless (Lawson 45), Byrne, Pittman, Sibbald (Odoffin 45), Erskine (Menga 45), Tiffoney, Hardie
Subs not used: Stewart, Brown, Lamie, Wylde
Referee: John Beaton
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine