Having to suffer a whole weekend without any Rangers game was not very fun but we were back to face the runners up in this seasons League Cup at their ground in what was a massive game for this season. A ground that has been a tough venue for us in recent years, a win would see many more fans begin to properly plan their title celebrations. The pitch, as has been mentioned so many times before, is a hard one to perform on and David Martindale has his team set up to make it a hard nights work for any opponent, and all credit to him for that. This game was no different from all of those encounters before at Almondvale (I will not call it by any other name). We had a hard time in creating proper opportunities and Livingston were quickly having to change tactic to make themselves as hard to break through as possible. The major talking point of the first half surrounded the referee’s decision to book Alfredo Morelos for diving when it was not a dive at all. The reaction to this from our manager at half time said all that needed to be said as to the frustration felt by the team and the coaching staff in what was a ludicrous moment. Beaton made the decision to dismiss the gaffer for his protest, but given Morelos’ card was rescinded since then, I think it is clear for all to see that John Beaton has no place in the top tier of Scottish football as a referee. Arrogant and far too often making very poor decisions, the fact he is seen as one of Scotland’s best must tell you that Scotland is doing something horribly wrong when it comes to referee training.
The team felt galvanised in the second half, putting in a much harder shift and wanting to do it for their manager now watching from the stand. A number of chances falling to our striker who could not convert, to the point where you felt it was not going to happen and a draw was inevitable. But a late move from the midfield saw the ball eventually fall to our main man up top to convert and send the fans watching all over the world into hysterics. The reason why this felt so good is this is a game that in recent seasons we absolutely 100% do not win. But it sums up so much of what is good about us, however we need to do it, we will find a way to win.
Here is how you rated our players from a hard fought but vital victory in Livi.
Allan McGregor – 6.6 (7)
Although he never made any crucial saves or anything like that, and credit to the entire defence for nullifying the opposition threat, the thing that was so good about McGregor here for me was the intensity he had for the latter part of the match. Every goal kick, every free kick, his wanting to get the ball moving as quickly as possible. It shows that being a goalkeeper in this team is not always about just making one crucial save every now and again, but you have to set the tempo and make sure the team follow your example. I would hope a Livingston goalkeeper ineligible to play against his parent club here was taking notes.
Nathan Patterson – 6.9 (7)
Young Nathan starting this game was no real surprise for the supporters given Tavernier continues to recover and Balogun could do with a chance to recover after last week. I thought he looked really comfortable, finding himself in areas of the field that Tavernier has made famous for a right back, you can clearly see he has been learning from the skipper in that respect. He looks very assured in a defensive sense as well, offering the ideal balance for a full back. At no point did it feel like we were playing a youth player in there, and that is a real compliment to the youngster.
Connor Goldson – 6.9 (7)
I haven’t seen any difference in the way Goldson has played since assuming responsibilities as captain. Not that this should be of any surprise to anyone watching us this season given how much he enjoys being a leader of this side. In particular, our central defence was important to keeping the Livingston attack from testing our keeper and he played a big part in that with some solid fair challenges.
Filip Helander – 6.9 (7)
A lot will talk about his first game at this ground as being the one that made fans long for the return of Nikola Katic to the defence. Well the fact of the matter is he has been very important at the back for a number of games this season and this one would be included in that, making some very important blocks and another clean sheet toward equalling a top league record in Scotland for clean sheets in a season.
Borna Barisic – 6.5 (6)
It’s probably a lot harder to get the best level of Borna Barisic when a game is played out in this fashion. Crossing from deep tends to be met by the heads of the defensive back line and when that threat is taken away you can only really hope for set piece opportunities for him to have a goal involvement. He did not seem as busy in terms of defending so overall a less flashy game for him, he probably enjoyed the flashes of fireworks though!
Scott Arfield – 5.6 (6)
Since his return from injury, Arfield has yet to put in a display that makes you feel that he is so vital to the team. He was that player earlier in the campaign and his energy made such a big difference to the team, but I just feel that he is not giving the team that same level of “Duracell Bunny” that he previously showed. Whether that is down to him still recovering or he just hasn’t found that extra burst yet, time will tell, but he is still considered in the second category of midfielders.
Steven Davis – 7.8 (7)
When the pressure is on and what you need is someone to talk ownership of the ball and set things going, that’s when you need Steven Davis. He is the catalyst for the move that sees us get the goal. His use of the ball and movement set up the opportunity which, although initially saved, was then able to be simply tapped in. A true leader, a true legend, and a player who will be remembered as being vital to our title win.
Glen Kamara – 7.2 (7)
A lot of credit should go to Glen Kamara in relation to the goal. You can sometimes question the need for him to be involved in a match against such a stuffy opponent but he was so important in terms of his strength and his use of the ball in the vital moment. A classy player who was not involved in much of the game but was in the most important.
Joe Aribo – 6.4 (6)
I sometimes really despair of Aribo. A player capable of playing so well in some games but being so anonymous in others. This game was one of those were you had to question what he was doing a lot of the time. Silly mistakes, were it almost feels like if he does one he will do many more afterward. Passing the ball out of play, passing it to players clearly offside, it’s just a huge frustration.
Alfredo Morelos – 8.1 (7) – Man of the Match
We should be talking about how well he does to win a penalty in the first half. We should be talking about that, but he was booked for simulation, an unbelievable decision and it is not the first time Beaton has done this and refereed Morelos on his supposed reputation over any substance. All the same, the way Morelos reacted was really positive. He did not go on a sulk, he did not take his frustration out on anyone. He got his head down and he created a number of opportunities for himself to score which were unsuccessful but all the same he kept trying. And he was in the right place to slot home the only goal of the game to provide total justice in the end. The celebrations of him and his teammates both at the goal and at full time tell you that they know just how close this is now. Nearly there lads. Nearly there.
Ryan Kent – 6.1 (6)
A quiet game but I would put that down to the pitch which I think is so much harder to get the best out of a player like Kent who is so good at driving the team on normally and being a creative spark. The narrow field and closing down of the Livingston defence made this near impossible to achieve, so not anything for anyone to worry about regarding his game.
Cedric Itten – 5.1 (5)
Comes on in the hope that he can provide an aerial threat to counter the defensive work from Martindale’s side. Although he did not feature in any major moments, his inclusion was understandable
Bongani Zungu – 4.2 (5)
On right at the end to see out the game that we were now leading, a role he will likely see out for the rest of the season.