Livingston continued their poor record at Fir Park, and made it six matches without a win as Motherwell ran out 3-1 winners in North Lanarkshire.
A Devante Cole double had Well 2-0 in front by the hour mark, before Jack Fitzwater gave the Lions hope netting immediately after the hosts’ second. But, Christopher Long sealed the all-important three points nine minutes later.
Livi manager David Martindale, hoping for a similar performance to Wednesday night after his side narrowly lost 1-0 to Rangers, made changes to his squad looking to end the Lions’ poor run of form.
Robby McCrorie replaced Max Stryjek in goal, while Aaron Taylor-Sinclair and Steve Lawson came in for Jason Holt and Scott Pittman. There was also a first Premiership start since December for Matej Poplatnik.
Motherwell started strong, and Livingston couldn’t get out their own half during the opening stages of the game.
The Lions’ defence looked shaky as McCrorie was forced into early saves to deny Jordan Roberts and Tony Watt. Devante Cole also went close, with his effort hitting the side netting.
Motherwell continued to dominate proceedings, with Livingston offering very little going forward, and on the half hour mark the hosts’ relentless pressure paid off when they were awarded a penalty.
After the ball was cleared from a corner, former Livi man was brought down by Matej Poplatnik after a late, clumsy challenge just inside the box, and the Steelmen had a golden opportunity to take.
Uo stepped Devante Cole, and he converted with ease slotting down the middle with McCrorie beaten.
The goal got a little response from the visitors, who came to life five minutes before the break, creating their first chance.
A Nicky Devlin throw-in was flicked on by Jon Huthrie, then met with a diving header by Poplatnik. The Slovenian’s effort was goal bound and looked to be nestling in the bottom corner but Liam Kelly got down wonderfully to divert past the post, making a crucial save to keep his side in front.
On the stroke of half time, Livi came close again. Josh Mullin’s 25-yard free-kick was beautifully whipped over the wall, but the winger’s effort cracked the crossbar. A matter of inches preventing him grabbing a vital equaliser.
The break probably came at the wrong time for Livingston, who looked in the ascendency the final five minutes of the first half. After the restart, Motherwell began to control the game again and stifle any real threat from their opponents.
On the hour mark, with the first real chance of the second half, the Steelmen doubled their lead.
Jake Carroll’s tame free-kick was blocked by the wall, but Livi couldn’t properly clear. Fitzwater’s attempted clearance fell into smashed off Craig Sibbald, and the ball fell into the path of Barry Maguire just inside the box. The midfielder flicked on for Devante Cole who, on the turn, smashed past McCrorie for his second of the game.
It was a frustrating goal to lose for the Lions but it sparked an immediate reaction, and they grabbed one back just a minute later.
Sibbald’s dangerous free-kick was glanced on, finding Fitzwater at the back post who couldn’t miss from close range. It was the defender’s first league goal for the club!
Scott Pittman and Alan Forrest came on looking to inject a bit of urgency into the Livingston attack and grab that vital equaliser. But, the next goal would come for the hosts and it was curtains for the Lions.
Nine minutes after Fitzwater’s strike, Christopher Long sealed the three points for Motherwell as the hosts yet again capitalised on some poor Livingston defending.
Robby McCrorie’s poor kick under pressure from Jordan Roberts was deflected into the path of Cole. The striker picked out fellow frontman Long, who slotted by the Livi stopper to restore the Steelmen’s two-goal advantage and earn them a vital win as they look to remain clear of a relegation scrap.
It was another bad day at the office for Martindale’s men, who made it five defeats from their last six.
Up next the Lions host 11th place Hamilton Accies, still looking to secure that top six berth. A point from Livi’s final two games will be enough to do so. Here’s hoping that the poor run is ended at the weekend, and come Saturday we can all be celebrating back to back top six finishes!
Motherwell: Kelly, Lamie, Magloire, Carroll, O’Donnell ▊, Campbell, Crawford, Maguire, Cole, Watt (⇔ Long ▊ 24 (Gallagher 86)), Roberts (⇔ McGinley 90)
Subs not used: Polworth, Cornelius, Devine, Lawless, Morrison, Hastie
Goals: Cole (31 pen & 59), Long (69)
Livingston: McCrorie, Devlin ▊, Fitzwater, Guthrie ▊, Taylor-Sinclair (⇔ Pittman 56), Bartley ▊ (⇔ Tiffoney 72), Lawson (⇔ Forrest 56), Sibbald ▊, Mullin, Serrano, Poplatnik
Subs not used: Stryjek, McMillan, Ambrose, Longridge, Holt, Kabia
Goals: Fitzwater (60)
Referee: Colin Steven
March Report: Claim Brown