Livingston 1-2 Hamilton: Accies Suckerpunch Slack Lions
Livingston welcomed Hamilton to the Tony Macaroni this weekend for this season's first edition of the 'El Plastico'. The two sides went into the weekend in 10th (Livi) and 11th place (Accies) with neither side having great starts to life this season. With two teams with small budgets, they are easy relegation candidates meaning games between the pair will be very important, even very early into the season.
Livi would start exceptionally bright, with a well-worked piece of play leading to Lars Lokotsch cutting the ball back in the 6-yard box which was put into the Hamilton inadvertently. At first look, it seemed like Scott Pittman got on the end of it but the ball was put in through an own goal, with captain Shaun Want the unlucky recipient. Livi would have the fair share of the ball, with Nicky Devlin the most threatening player but no clear cut chances came within the rest of the first half. The closest chance for Accies came in the form of a ridiculous back pass from Efe Ambrose on the halfway line that forced McCrorie to try and chest the ball, offering a chance to the oncoming David Moyo but the on-loan Rangers keeper recovered well.
The second half saw Hamilton come into the game and threatened early through Marios Ogkmpoe. Accies wouldn't wait too long into the second half to equalise, with Hakeem Odoffin attacking a corner excellently and striking the bar with a header where David Templeton was able to rattle home the rebound. Livi would come close to retaking the lead as Scott Pittman rattled the bar and then failed to get on the end of a Nicky Devlin cross. These chances would come back to haunt Livi as Accies struck late through Kyle Munro. The youngster managed to get a free header from a Templeton delivery and expertly placed it way beyond Robby McCrorie to give Accies the lead and also, the winning goal.
A tremendous victory for Accies and the kind of result we're used to seeing from them in recent seasons as they manage to pull something out of the bag unexpectedly. The result gives Accies their second win of the season and puts the Lanarkshire side up to 9th in the table. As for Livi, this is a very poor result as the home form this season is leaving questions to be asked about the Lions. Now sitting joint bottom, something needs to change and fast to turn around the Lions fortunes. Unfortunately, they're away to Champions Celtic next weekend, who just put 5 past Ross County this weekend.
Livi Lions Not The Same Beasts Anymore
Livingston's reputation in the top flight has been based on their tremendous home form where they've been hard to beat and gave the best of teams a hard time. Last season, the Lions only lost twice at home. This season they have already matched that total, as the Lions look a shadow of themselves in previous seasons.
With Lyndon Dykes and Steven Lawless leaving, it can be expected that Livingston will be missing a cutting edge going forward and will have to adapt to the losses of these players. But the main issues that seem to be causing the Lions issues is in other areas where change has been very limited. Livi had been poor defensively at the start of the season but it had been written off as the formations fault with players playing out of position. The 0-0 draw with Rangers looked to be a turning point for Livi but only a few weeks later, the same issues have crept back in, with nothing other to blame than poor quality.
Livingston conceded two goals from set pieces, something the West Lothian side showed great defensive capabilities with in recent seasons, especially at home. The first goal for Accies came from Hakeem Odoffin simply wanting the ball a lot more than his former teammates from a corner kick, rattling the bar and finding himself unlucky not to score his second goal for the club. The ball would drop for an unmarked David Templeton who finished excellently as you'd expect from a player with his quality. This would be a common theme for the afternoon but more frequently at the other side of the pitch.
Facing up against his former side, Odoffin was easily the game's man of the match, showing great intensity and desire to get on the end of every ball coming into the Accies box and putting his body on the line every time. Odoffin and other members of the Accies defence reacted brilliantly to going down a goal so early into the game and got their reward in the end, even if they had to ride their luck at times. In many ways, Accies performed heroically in the way that Livi fans have seen their team do so very frequently in the last 3 years.
The winning goal for Accies brings a sight that has happened too often for Livi this season, slack defending from crosses. The opening day of the season saw Richard Tait easily run through unmarked to score and the 4-1 win for Hibs was filled with defensive errors regarding marking players around the 6-yard-box. A slack penalty given away against Aberdeen featured the similar trend and the Lions were punished yet again as Kyle Munro ran clear of Scott Robinson to head home. Robinson was nowhere to be seen as the ball came into the box and Munro headed home excellently for his first career goal.
Livingston are clearly not the same this season in attacking the ball, with even their offensive numbers coming down in this manner. The Lions look very vulnerable when defending and each of the mistakes Gary Holt's side make are being punished. Losing to Hamilton at home could be quite ominous for the Lions season, with Holt having a massive task on his hand to get his defence into shape before this weekend's game, a daunting away fixture to Champions Celtic.
Hamilton Doing What They Do Best
Photo courtesy of Eddie Cocozza
Brian Rice claimed following the match that he knew his side would go onto win the game at half time, despite being a goal down. Rice had great faith in his team and wasn't flustered by the Lions having a better share of the possession and chances, showing the great belief within the Accies changing room.
The masters of getting results out of nowhere when needed, there is clearly a great spirit within Brian Rice's side and they deserve full credit for how they applied themselves in this victory. With a depleted squad which had midfielder Scott Martin deployed at full-back and young Kyle Munro making his first start for the club. Despite this, Accies remained a solid unit and again showcases the effect Brian Rice has had on the defensive part of Accies play.
Accies are always going to be near the bottom due to their finances but they more than make up for it with displays like this that we have gotten so used to over the 7 straight seasons they've been in the top flight. Bar David Templeton, the Accies side isn't filled with names that truly ring a bell but in no way does that discredit the efforts these players put in. The average age of the Accies starting 11 was 23.5, with only David Templeton (31) and Ross Callachan (27) over the age of 26, showing Rice is building a good young side with the odd experienced head in amongst them. If Accies can maintain this squad and sign them up to contracts for a few years, their side will only improve and in turn bring more success and potential transfer fees. Reegan Mimnaugh and Kyle Munro didn't look out of their depth at only 18-years-old, with Mimnaugh battling against well-experienced players like Marvin Bartley and Jason Holt.
It's not a team that will light things up just yet but with more experience and game time for this young squad, Brian Rice will be very confident he can keep the Lanarkshire side up once again. With wins away to Livingston and Motherwell now, it's seeming like Rice and his side are very much proving the doubters wrong yet again.