Robbie Neilson praised his team’s character as they overcame a robust Livingston team to earn a hard-fought three points in today’s clash at the Energy Assets Arena.
Genero Zeefuik set the Jambos on their way with a third-minute opener, before the Lions equalised through a Craig Sives strike, despite claims of offside from the Jambos defence.
An end-to-end battle ensued before a quickfire double from Kenny Anderson and Jamie Walker put the Jambos out of sight. Substitute Brad McKay saw red for a professional foul before Keaghan Jacobs netted from the spot in injury time to earn Livi a consolation goal.
After the game, Robbie admitted his relief at the team finally making the breakthrough just 7 minutes from time to retake the lead.
“All the games we play now are going to be really tough,” he explained. “They’ll be tight and tense until the end of the season, as we try to get ourselves over the line. Teams are desperate for points and will change the way they play because they’re running out of time.
“The majority of games will turn into a battle and we need to show character and strength. We didn’t play great football today, but the three points will prove crucial, I’m sure.”
There was a flashpoint of controversy in a physical first half which saw six home players booked by referee Brian Colvin, including Jason Talbot whose high challenge on Sam Nicholson saw the youngster lying prone on the turf with blood pouring from his face and head.
Robbie confirmed his unhappiness at the nature of the challenge and stated that he’d let the match official know exactly how he felt about it.
“Sam’s not in great condition. He’ll be fine in a few days but the boy has puncture marks all over his face. I didn’t think ti was a great tackle, you get rough play at this level and sometimes players can go over the line. I have told the referee exactly how I feel about it.”
Robbie’s second half substitutions also played a vital part in the outcome of the match, with Billy King and debutant Anderson combining to great effect, as the Dutchman nodded in a flying header from the winger’s cross, before King played in Walker to fire beyond Jamieson and win the match.
The other substitute, Brad McKay, wasn’t quite as fortunate, finding himself dismissed within 2 minutes of taking the field. Despite the dismissal, however, Robbie said it was just one of those things and that he’d have no hesitation in using the St Johnstone-bound defender again in future, after signing a pre-contract with the Perth side this week.
“I’m delighted for Kenny. We put him on to do a specific job and he was all over the pitch, and scored a really good goal, from Billy’s cross.
“It’s great to have the option with Billy on the bench. He takes men on, commits players and offers us a bit of a different dimension. With Brad, it was just one of those things.
“We put him on to shore up the defence, but these things happen. I’ve got no qualms about playing him because he’s a strong character, he loves the club and he wants to leave as a champion.”