Motherwell 2-2 Livingston: Positive Performance From The Lions
The two most disappointing sides so far this season - albeit only now 2 games into the season - have definitely been last seasons 3rd placed Motherwell and 5th placed Livingston. The two sides have had very poor starts to the season, with Motherwell suffering an away defeat to Ross County on the opening day of the season and were also downed by recently promoted Dundee United, both scores 1-0. A single goal would also be the difference between Livingston and St Mirren on the opening day with the latter coming away with the three points. Livi would be unable to bounce back from this result, with a calamitous 17-minute showing helping Hibs hammer the Lions 4-1. With the two teams having excellent campaigns last season, both side's starts have not reflected this at all with the two being very disappointing, picking up 0 points in two games.
The two would soon be able to quickly fix that, with one of the sides guaranteed to pick up their points of the season as they two faced off at Fir Park. Among the Motherwell side would be Ricki Lamie, making his first appearance against the Lions since leaving in the summer, with Declan Gallagher and Jordan White being other starters for the Well who once featured for the West Lothian club. The aforementioned White replaced Jake Hastie, the only change from the defeat against Dundee United on Saturday. As for Livi, former Motherwell player Aaron Taylor-Sinclair returned to the starting XI alongside Alan Forrest in favour of Efe Ambrose and Nicky Devlin whilst there was a spot on the bench for new signing Jason Holt.
Motherwell would start off brightly as Livi failed to deal with a forward ball which would eventually make its way to the highly thought of David Turnbull who expertly finished, 8 minutes into the game. The Fir Park sides lead would only be momentary as Ricki Lamie aided his former team, conceding a penalty for handball almost immediately after Turnbull's goal. Lyndon Dykes would score his second penalty in as many games, firing straight down the middle of Trevor Carson's goal. Motherwell would regain their lead before half time, this time Allan Campbell firing into the bottom corner leaving Robby McCrorie hopeless. Livi would come out in the second half the more threatening and got their reward as a well-worked piece of play saw Alan Forrest score his first goal in the top flight and his first for the Lions. This would be enough to secure a point for Livingston as the shares were split and both teams picking up their first points of the season, the third season in a row that the two have drawn in their first league game against one another (2018/19 1-1, 2019/20 0-0). For both sides, there's still room for improvement in areas but also positives for both, particularly regarding their attacking outputs.
Livingston Mistakes Punished Again
When it rains it pours and for Livingston, it is teeming it down right now. Every single defensive mishap the Lions seem to make is rightfully punished as the West Lothian side cannot seem to catch a break just now. A lack of concentration saw St Mirren capitalise and the 17-minutes of Hell against Hibs has showcased how Livi's opponents are capitalising on their flaws and Motherwell did the same.
A long ball forward by Motherwell doesn't look too troubling, with the Livi defence seeming in good position to deal with the dropping ball, with Jack Fitzwater looking to attack the ball and Ciaron Brown dropping to cover.
However, this all goes wrong as Fitzwater completely makes a hash out of this situation, somehow cushioning the ball down which attacker Sherwin Seedorf quickly responded to, putting the Lions further on the back foot. The winger was always going to win in a foot race against Fitzwater as Motherwell were now in a good attacking position.
Fitzwater never really gets close to Seedorf, with the winger cutting inwards onto his right foot, spotting David Turnbull free within the D of the box. Livi suffer a bit of bad luck, as circled centre back Ciaron Brown loses his footing which causes him to fall to the deck, giving Turnbull even more time on the ball. However, Brown's fumble could be resolved if Craig Sibbald continues to follow Turnbull. Should Sibbald be ball side and close to Turnbull, he cuts out the option for Seedorf with the winger probably having to opt for a pass to Chris Long who is well out of the 18-yard box.
Due to this poor positioning from Sibbald, Turnbull receives the ball in the 18-yard box, with the goal beckoning in front of him. This leads to acts of desperation for Livi, with the centre-halves having to charge toward the midfielder.
The previously mentioned desperation sees the Livi defence under pressure and with this, Jon Guthrie dives in ever so slightly but between himself and Brown manage to narrow the angle for Turnbull.
However, Turnbull's quality comes through although aided with a slight piece of luck as he manages to squeeze the ball underneath the two defenders and into the bottom corner. It is a wonderful finish that left keeper Robby McCrorie with no chance with Turnbull eventually punishing the Lions for their prior mistakes. A poor goal for the Lions to concede in a position that seemed harmless at first, the Lions need to cut these mistakes out as they are happening far too frequently and they are getting punished very often from them. The second goal also saw poor defending cost the Lions as well as a chance where Sherwin Seedorf's dink over McCrorie was cleared by Jon Guthrie as the ball was heading goalward with the score still at 2-1. Gary Holt likes to mention in his press conferences that he wants his players to continue to work hard and know that there is competition who will gladly take underperforming players places in the starting XI. With a number of different options in the backline, it may be the last chance for some of Livi's defenders to prove themselves in the starting team.
Following his side's defeat to Ross County and Dundee United, Stephen Robinson has stated his side need to be more "street-wise" and "clinical" in these games to make the difference. His side have failed to score in their first two games whilst squandering chances, including a missed penalty versus Ross County. Motherwell had 18 efforts against Dundee United with only 4 on target in a frustrating afternoon where they couldn't break the deadlock. The Fir Park side had one less effort on target with only 3 but were much more composed in front of goal. As already highlighted, despite defensive woes, David Turnbull's finish was a truly excellent piece of play with the young midfielder showing his class. The same can be said about Allan Campbell, who also got on the scoresheet and added to his own reputation. Manager Robinson praised Campbell above all others and his battling and tenacity allowed him to get into a good position for a shot on target. Once in that area, he let his quality do the talking and fired and excellent low shot across the goal and into the back of the net.
It may worry Motherwell fans that their strikers aren't really getting involved in these chances, Jordan White and Chris Long kept fairly quiet throughout the game. However, with the likes of Turnbull, Campbell and Seedorf lively, threats on goal can come from many other areas on the park which should help take some pressure off the forwards. Well will be happy with the chances taken from tonight with areas to continue improving on as they look to return to their usual capabilities.
Much More Like It From Livi's Midfield
The first two games of the season simply haven't been good enough from Livi and one of the key parts of Livi's style is an energetic midfield who challenge for everything and make up the ground all over the pitch. The games against St Mirren and Hibs have seen Livi's midfield of Bartley, Sibbald and Pittman lose out on midfield battles and not show what they are capable of, both in attack and defence. Lyndon Dykes has often been stranded in the Livi attack, with the supporting players really struggling to get close to the Australian born striker who has been crowded out for the most part. With a rejig of formation to the familiar 4-2-3-1, Dykes would have instant support on either side from Scott Robinson and Alan Forrest who both put in a great shift. What will please Livi fans and Gary Holt, even more, is how the aforementioned Pittman and Sibbald joined in on the attacks as well.
Dykes will always trouble defenders in aerial duels but he needs players to get close to him, especially as the opposition begin to crowd the striker. In previous games, the likes of Pittman and Forrest have left Dykes alone but it was completely different on Wednesday evening. As the ball approached Dykes, he would instantly have options, with the drive of the Livi midfield showing Gary Holt had got his message across to his players. There was a real intent for the players to work as a unit and get forward, something that has been missing and has absolutely contributed to Livi's poor showings of late. It was more like it from Marvin Bartley in holding midfield who covered excellently to allow the better ballplayers to move forward.
It's well known that Livi like to get the ball up to towards their opponent's goal very quickly and work from flicks on to get success. But following knock-ons or winning second balls, the Lions can knock it about fairly well, with the likes of Alan Forrest, Scott Pittman, Scott Robinson and Craig Sibbald being far from battering rams. That quartet are all tidy players on the deck and showcased threats on a number of occasions in the final third, with Forrest finally getting his reward. There was some lovely one-touch play between the forwards, with a particular piece of play between Dykes, Sibbald and Robinson showcasing that the Lions can truly play despite what many will say.
Alan Forrest was the man of the match for me with the winger causing Ricki Lamie a lot of trouble down the right-hand side with tricky wing play. The former Ayr winger has great pace to frighten but properly showcased his ability on the ball as he shone above all others on the day. The loss of Steven Lawless is big with the Burton Albion winger being key in Livi's success the last two seasons but if Forrest can produce more performances like this, he'll be a very worthy successor.
Time To Kick On
Both teams are still capable of a lot more. We all know Livi can defend a lot better and Motherwell still have an extra few gears that hasn't been shown so far this season. There are positives to take for both sides and both managers will be looking to tweak things to get their season's back on track. Stephen Robinson was far from impressed by his team despite praise for their defending of set pieces and Allan Campbell, with a few players a receiving a rollocking after the game. You can expect a lot more intensity from Well in their next game, with Robinson stating they have been playing with 7 players these past few weeks, a firing shot towards those underperforming. With an upcoming fixture against flying Hibs, Motherwell will need to be a lot better to take anything away from Easter Road.
As for Livi, they welcome Rangers who for sure will capitalise on any mistakes the Lions make, with the Glasgow side scoring 7 in 3 games so far this season. It'll be a tough test defensively for Livi who may need to wait another week before they can properly kick on. Nonetheless, it was a positive performance from the Lions and very much a step in the right direction, giving them some much-needed confidence before they face the team currently sitting top of the league. A good point away from home with a performance that will ease nerves around the club, the Lions will look to build upon this and hope to return to normality sooner rather than later.