Hearts manager Steven Naismith admitted he always expected his team to respond after coming from two goals down to beat Livingston 4-2.

The hosts were punished for a slow start after going two down inside 22 minutes following a Stephen Kelly brace.

But Hearts fought back in emphatic fashion after scoring through Jorge Grant, Yutaro Oda, Cammy Devlin and Lawrence Shankland before the break.

The win kept Hearts 11 points clear in third place in the cinch Premiership and confirmed European football for next season, with the Jambos now guaranteed at least a top-four finish.

Naismith insists he was not surprised by the manner of his side’s comeback.

He said: “We didn’t come out the changing room for the first 10-15 minutes. It was a poor start, really poor, really sloppy, and then brilliant.

“We lost two goals but it’s the third time we have come back. When the second goal goes in there’s a frustration from me and the fans.

“I knew when we were 2-0 down we’d come back into the game because we have shown it before. The element of having a ruthless streak and being more clinical is something we have talked about.

“And that part I am really happy with because our speed of attack, our bodies in the box, that’s what gets us back in the game. There were some really good goals.”

Naismith handed Craig Gordon his first league start since Christmas Eve 2022 ahead of the goalkeeper playing in next Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers.

He added: “He’s been playing in the cup and I thought it was a good opportunity to get him a game before the semi-final. That was the decision.”

Livingston remain nine points adrift at the bottom ahead of the final five post-split matches and manager David Martindale insists the way the match unfolded summed up their season.

He said: “I think what you saw there in the first half was the story of our season played out in 45 minutes.

“We started the game really well and should have scored a third when Tete (Yengi) was clean through against Craig Gordon. That was an unbelievable chance.

“Stephen came up with two good goals. To give Hearts their due, they scored two decent goals but we gifted them the goals.”

Asked why Tete Yengi received a second yellow card just seconds after being substituted, Martindale added: “The kid comes off the park frustrated, he’s kicked one of our bottles. He’s kicked it into our dugout.

“I’m not saying what he’s done is right but I think you need to give him some leeway. I just think there has to be a bit of common sense applied.”

Hearts secured European football for next season after coming from two goals down to beat Livingston 4-2.

Basement team Liv stormed into a two-goal lead after 22 minutes courtesy of Stephen Kelly’s brace.

But Hearts produced an emphatic response to score four goals before the interval, with Jorge Grant, Yutaro Oda, Cammy Devlin and Lawrence Shankland all finding the net.

The victory meant Hearts, who remain 11 points clear in third place, can finish no lower that fourth in the cinch Premiership, while Livingston remain nine points adrift at the bottom.

The big team news pre-match was the return of Craig Gordon in goal for Hearts for the first time in a league match since Christmas Eve 2022.

The 41-year-old goalkeeper’s inclusion was with an eye on next weekend’s Scottish Cup semi-final with Rangers.

But it was a difficult start for Gordon and his team-mates against a Livingston team fighting for their lives.

The Lions started well and wasted a great chance to open the scoring after nine minutes.

Sean Kelly’s pass down the left was missed by Hearts defender Frankie Kent and Tete Yengi came in on the blindside but his tame shot was easily saved by Gordon.

That warning was not heeded by the hosts as the away team stormed into a two-goal lead.

The first came just a minute later when a long ball over the top was intercepted by Gordon outside his area.

But the Scot allowed his touch to get away from him and Stephen Kelly swept a stunning first-time shot into the unguarded net from 40 yards.

The boos rang around Tynecastle in the 22nd minute as Livingston doubled their lead. Kent’s attempted clearance was charged down by Yengi and the ball broke to Stephen Kelly, who slammed a right-footed drive past Gordon from 18 yards.

But Hearts’ response was emphatic as they scored four unanswered goals before half-time.

The first arrived in the 29th minute when Shankland’s left-footed cross was forced in by Grant.

The equaliser was a near mirror imagine as Oda tapped in another Shankland cross at the front post.

Hearts kept coming and added a third with another delivery from the left flank, this time Alex Cochrane’s low pass being squeezed in by Devlin.

And the fourth arrived from the penalty spot in first half stoppage time when Shankland slotted home after Lions goalkeeper Shamal George tripped Oda.

The second half was less eventful although Livingston striker Yengi was shown a second yellow card by referee Colin Steven just seconds after he had been substituted.

Hearts controlled the half and went close through Shankland and Devlin.

Aberdeen have claimed VAR is having a negative impact on Scottish football after discovering officials effectively “guessed” that their stoppage-time winner at Livingston should be disallowed following a technical failure.

The Dons saw their hopes of a cinch Premiership top-six finish disappear when Bojan Miovski’s goal was disallowed for an offside against Angus MacDonald in the build-up.

Aberdeen argued their “relative public silence” on VAR issues was “no longer tenable” following talks with the Scottish Football Association on the decision and hearing transcripts from the match officials.

The talks revealed the video assistants were unable to calibrate the lines because of a camera failure, instead freezing the footage to determine by eye, as is allowed by the VAR protocols. Video assistant Matthew MacDermid decided MacDonald was offside.

The SFA later produced retrospective footage to prove the right decision had been made in the end.

An Aberdeen statement read: “The Scottish FA accepted there is no conceivable way the VAR could tell definitively the deepest position of Livingston midfielder Daniel McKay’s body, because from the only angle available – the 18-yard box camera on the Main Stand side – the lower half of McKay’s body is completely obscured from view, blocked by other players.

“Even if his full body was visible, it’s impossible to determine who was closest to the goal line with no on-pitch ‘markers’.

“Therefore, it was acknowledged by all in attendance at the meeting that the VARs had to effectively guess on what that position might have been based on the limited information available to them, and that was the basis on which to overrule the on-field call of the assistant referee, who did not raise his flag.

“It is our strong belief that in such an instance, and for the integrity of the game, the match officials should stick with their original on-field decision without the strength of evidence to overturn that and essentially re-referee the passage of play.

“This course of action was chosen ahead of asking the referee himself to look at the freeze frame and make a determination, which is permitted under the protocols when it’s a matter of opinion rather than factual, or more appropriately, in absence of a definitive outcome from the camera, sticking with the on-field decision, and giving the benefit of the doubt.”

The club added: “What this situation demonstrates, in our opinion, is that the version of VAR that Scottish football has, or more accurately, can afford, is not suitable for the purpose in which it is intended.

“It perfectly highlights the limitations in the technology, the inappropriate implementation, the consistency of decision-making, and the negative impact on the overall experience for the match-going supporter.

“This is, of course, not an issue that we believe is in any way exclusive to Aberdeen FC.

“We are not being partisan because we believe a decision, or at least a process, has not been at all effective at the weekend.

“We acknowledge there have been occasions where we ourselves have been fortunate to have benefitted from some of the observations and limitations raised.”

Aberdeen pledged to continue playing an active role in the ongoing review of VAR’s use in Scotland and try to improve the output.

They added that they did not believe VAR is “enhancing the game in this country”.

The SFA later stated that Hawkeye’s review confirmed that the relevant camera had suffered a “loss of calibration”.

A statement added: “During the review, Hawkeye were able to reprocess the data through their system and draw the calibrated offside lines from the disallowed goal, which showed Angus MacDonald to be in an offside position.

“The VAR made the decision using the technology that was available and this decision was validated by Hawkeye’s retrospective recalibration conducted as part of their review.”

Aberdeen interim manager Peter Leven rued Bojan Miovski’s late disallowed goal as the Dons were held to a 0-0 cinch Premiership draw away to bottom side Livingston.

The striker’s close-range effort looked to have settled a disappointing game in the final minute before it was disallowed, after VAR spotted Angus MacDonald had been offside in the build-up.

The Dons – who finished third last season – have endured a frustrating season and this result confirmed they would definitely finish in the bottom six this time around.

Leven said: “I’ve not seen the angle back. Angus (MacDonald) thought he was onside but I’ve not seen it back.

“It was a sickener at the end. It’s a great finish but overall I don’t think we did enough to put pressure on their goal.

“From back to middle we were all right but I don’t think we had that spark in the final third.

“It was difficult with the high winds and the dry pitch. We tried to get the ball down and play and we punched it through the lines.

“We saw that with the pass for Bojan and Leighton Clarkson got the ball a couple of times. It’s difficult for both teams.

“I see it as two points dropped to be honest. We don’t get the goal in the 90th minute but I’m delighted with the clean sheet.

“That’s really important to build on that but I’ve always said, if we can’t win we don’t lose.”

Livingston manager David Martindale, meanwhile, praised the character of his side as they hung on for a point to close the gap to second-bottom Ross County – to nine points – with six games remaining.

He said: “One thing you can never question from the group of players is the character. I thought they gave everything today.

“The weather wasn’t good. The amount of head knocks. It was stop-start and not any fluidity. In that first half, both teams had their best chances.

“The second half, I felt we were the better team if I’m honest. I am not being disrespectful to Aberdeen.

“We tried to build. We got into good offensive areas. I felt the execution in the final third was missing.

“Whether that was down to our decision-making or Aberdeen defending well. Probably a wee bit of both.

“We were unlucky not to take something more from the game today if I’m honest.”

Bojan Miovski saw his late goal disallowed by VAR as Aberdeen were forced to settle for a point in a goalless cinch Premiership draw with Livingston at the Tony Macaroni Arena.

The striker looked to have settled a poor-quality contest when he fired home from close range in the dying moments but Angus MacDonald was found to have been offside in the build-up following a VAR intervention.

The Dons had had the better chances, with Miovski earlier denied by Shamal George when clean through and Jamie McGrath hitting the woodwork with a deep cross that almost crept in.

Livingston’s best opportunity came in the opening five minutes when Steven Bradley headed the ball wide from six yards out.

Aberdeen remain ninth in the league, while Livingston are now nine points adrift of Ross County at the foot of the table.

Livingston manager David Martindale had made just one change from the side who lost to Celtic last time out, with Jason Holt dropping out and Daniel Mackay coming in.

Aberdeen, meanwhile, were unchanged following their important 2-1 win over Ross County last weekend.

It was the hosts who should have taken an early lead in the fourth minute as Sean Kelly’s left-wing cross found Bradley, who headed just wide when he should have scored.

Aberdeen’s first chance came in the 20th minute and it was a golden opportunity as Miovski was released through on goal by Leighton Clarkson but the striker’s effort was well blocked by Livi goalkeeper George.

It was a stop-start first half with a number of lengthy delays following head knocks to Tete Yengi, McGrath and Michael Nottingham, although all three were eventually able to continue.

It was not until the 41st minute that the next chance was created as Steven Kelly had a left-footed shot from the edge of the box that was parried to safety by Kelle Roos.

Despite nine added minutes, there was to be no breakthrough as a forgettable first half came to an end.

McGrath had the first effort of the second half in the 52nd minute, firing in a near-post free-kick that was palmed away by George.

In a flurry of activity, substitute MacDonald saw a header blocked from the resulting corner and – in the same passage of play – McGrath’s deep cross cannoned off the far post with George scrambling in the windy conditions.

Martindale threw on Bruce Anderson after an hour and the substitute nearly had an instant impact, volleying over at the near post from a Mackay cross.

The second half was low on quality but Aberdeen thought they had snatched it at the death as Miovski bundled the ball home after George had saved Stefan Gartenmann’s header.

But, following a VAR check, MacDonald was adjudged to have been offside from the original free-kick as a disappointing match ended goalless.

Livingston have expressed concern that Celtic fans broke pre-match agreements by entering the pitchside area to unveil two “unapproved” banners in their stadium during Sunday’s match between the teams.

As they usually do, the Lions allocated three of the four stands at the Tony Macaroni Arena to the Hoops in order to fill the ground and generate revenue.

However, the situation backfired on Sunday when several visiting supporters left the stands to stand in front of the advertising boards and roll out a huge banner along the side of the pitch commemorating the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, which read ‘Born into slavery, they were Freedom’s Sons’.

Another banner was unfurled behind one of the goals at half-time that read ‘Hold on to our title Bhoys. Don’t Give up The Dream’.

Livingston released a statement on Wednesday addressing a situation that angered many of their supporters.

“Prior to this fixture, a visiting supporters group called ‘The Green Brigade’, via the Celtic SLO (supporter liaison officer), requested a Tifo display in all three stands allocated to the Celtic support and to have a banner displayed along the front of the East Stand,” it read.

“The banner was to read ‘You Play for Us and We’ll Sing for You’.

“This request was refused and instead permission was granted for a Tifo and banner display in the South Stand only.

“This matter was discussed at the pre-match meeting, held in the week leading up to the match, where representatives from the club, Celtic FC, Amberstone (our steward company) and a delegate from the SPFL were all present.

“The agreement for a Tifo and banner display in the South Stand was understood by all in attendance.

“On match-day around an hour prior to kick off, a further request for a Tifo display in all three stands was requested by the same visiting supporters group and was again refused.

“Against the instruction of the club and police, the banner was allowed into the ground, unchecked, through an emergency gate that was opened due to safety concerns.

“The banner was then displayed along the front of the East Stand – again, against the agreed procedure.

“It was then deemed that this banner and the Tifo display would be allowed to continue on the grounds of public safety for those in the ground and to prevent further disorder that may have delayed the kick off or jeopardised the game going ahead.

“At the start of second half a further unapproved banner was then unfurled. The banner itself wasn’t an issue as such, however, again, visiting supporters were permitted access trackside to display the banner which is wholly and utterly unacceptable.

“Full discussions are ongoing with external partners who were working at the stadium on Sunday to find out why a number of these incidents were allowed to happen and what steps will be taken to ensure there is no repeat in future fixtures.”

Despite Sunday’s issues, manager David Martindale said he would still prefer to see Livi’s stadium packed with Old Firm fans.

“I think the situation could have been dealt with better on Sunday,” he said, speaking at his media briefing on Wednesday. “But for me, would I rather have a stadium with 8000 Old Firms in it? Yep, all day long.

“It brings its own problems at the same time, but I think it brings a great atmosphere to the game of football.

“Since it came into the Premiership, a lot of the club’s business model has been based on away fans. Some folk won’t like hearing that, but at the end of the day those away crowds probably make up about 33 per cent of our turnover.

“Even if we take the finances out of the equation, I’d still want to fill those three stands, whether it’s with home fans or away fans, because for me that’s football.

“I want to be working in those high-pressured environments with great atmospheres.”

John Kennedy feels cool-headed Celtic are getting back to their attacking best in time for next weekend's title showdown with Rangers after they returned to the top of the cinch Premiership with a 3-0 away win over Livingston.

The Hoops were frustrated in a goalless first half, but an own goal from Livi's Jamie Brandon early in the second broke the hosts' resistance before further goals from Paulo Bernardo and Matt O'Riley helped Brendan Rodgers' side climb a point above Gers, who have a game in hand.

“It was very good,” said assistant boss Kennedy, carrying out media duties as manager Brendan Rodgers served a one-match touchline ban.

“As everyone knows, coming here, especially on a day like today when the sun is out and drying the pitch up, it can be difficult.

“But the boys were very good, very professional. We didn't give Livingston very much at all in terms of territory or getting into our box, which is always important here.

“And in our attacking play, we stuck at it. In the first half we could have scored. We got into some great areas and maybe the final ball wasn't there or things got blocked.

“But we showed that calmness, which is important at this time of year. It's easy to get dragged into panic mode and think that you need to go chasing a win, but we stayed with our performance, stayed with doing the same things. 

“We were relentless and eventually it breaks for you. That's what happened and we came out convincing winners.”

Celtic have now scored 20 goals in their last six matches.

With key players like Alistair Johnston, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Reo Hatate all now back in the mix after injury lay-offs, as well as the possibility of captain Callum McGregor returning at Ibrox on Sunday, Kennedy says the Hoops will be heading across Glasgow in confident mood.

“The injuries have hampered us, but the squad are looking good. You see it in training, you sense it in training, the numbers are starting to come back up, the quality's starting to come back in and the standard starts to raise,” said Kennedy.

“Outwith the Hearts game, when we went down to 10 men very early, we'd scored 17 goals in four games and we've scored another three today, so in that respect it's very pleasing.

“Obviously we want to stay on top of our defensive game and not slacken off and, if we do that, we get performances like that where we dominate games and give nothing away. That's always the objective, to have that level of performance.''

Livingston remain 10 points adrift at the foot of the table and boss David Martindale was frustrated at the way his team let things slip away after the break.

“Probably a game of two halves,” he said. “First half, I thought our discipline, our structure, our application was very good and we limited them to very little.

“That was the game plan obviously, albeit I would've liked to have carried a bit more of a threat than we did.

“Then you go out second half and to lose the goal we lost was probably the story of the season, if I'm being honest. Some bad decision-making.”

Hibernian manager Nick Montgomery praised his players for producing a “real professional performance” as they climbed back into the cinch Premiership top six with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Livingston.

The Leith side had the game all but wrapped up inside 22 minutes after Jordan Obita, Myziane Maolida and Adam Le Fondre found the target.

It was a long afternoon for the Lions as they slipped 10 points adrift of Ross County at the foot of the table.

Montgomery, whose team are now two points clear of seventh-placed Dundee, who face Rangers on Sunday, said: “That was an enjoyable afternoon – three points, three goals and a clean sheet, a real professional performance in a game everyone expected to win.

“We were playing a Livingston team who are really fighting hard for Davie Martindale, you could see that, and they fought in the second half to keep us out, kept battling right to the end.

“I’m probably a bit disappointed we didn’t get a couple more goals. But we have to be pleased with the result after a tough week, a long trip home from Ross County after a tiring game on a soft pitch.

“It’s always nice to be in the top six. But we can’t get carried away with what could be, what should be.

“We go into that break now on the back of six games undefeated. We have to take that momentum into the break, recover a few boys, get a few back from injury, and give everything we can between now and the end of the season.”

Obita got Hibs up and running after five minutes when he tapped in before Maolida swept home a second from close range two minutes later.

Le Fondre made it three when he got on the end of an Elie Youan cross.

Livingston’s preparations for the game had been hampered by a bug which forced boss Martindale to cancel training on Tuesday.

And he admitted some members of his team were still feeling the effects of illness at Easter Road.

Martindale said: “I’m not trying to make excuses for the players or for me because I take full responsibility.

“But we had to shut the club this week due to flu. That wasn’t an ideal start to the week.

“There were two or three boys with it you’ve asked to play.

“It was painful in the first 20 minutes.”

Hibernian moved back into the cinch Premiership’s top six with an emphatic 3-0 win at home to Livingston.

Jordan Obita, Myziane Maolida and Adam Le Fondre were on target within the first 22 minutes as the hosts blew away their struggling visitors.

Livingston were in danger of suffering an even heavier loss but managed to regroup to at least put up a fight for the rest of the game.

The result left Hibs two points clear of Dundee, who face Rangers on Sunday, in sixth place.

Bottom side Livingston, who were hit by a bug that swept through the squad earlier in the week, slipped 10 points behind second-bottom Ross County and now seem certain to be playing Championship football next season.

The hosts flew out of the blocks as they stormed into a commanding two-goal lead inside seven minutes.

Livingston had barely had a touch of the ball by the time Obita stroked home the first after five minutes, such was the home side’s dominance.

Nectar Triantis burst forward from midfield and found Le Fondre in the box.

The forward’s teasing pass was cut out by Jamie Brandon at the front post, but Obita was left with a simple tap-in.

There was no let-up from Hibs and they soon doubled their lead.

Joe Newell’s pass picked out Elie Youan and the Frenchman’s square ball was tucked away by Maolida from 12 yards.

Any game plan Livingston had of trying to frustrate Hibs was ripped up and even at such an early stage the game appeared set to become a damage limitation exercise for the away team.

To Livingston’s credit, they regained some sort of composure and at least asked questions of the Hibs defence by getting crosses into the box.

The third goal from Hibs in the 22nd minute actually came when Livingston were on the attack.

Chris Cadden led the counter and found Youan with a sliding pass and the forward’s ball across the box was gratefully dispatched by Le Fondre.

Livingston goalkeeper Shamal George denied Hibs a fourth before the break when he pushed Le Fondre’s stinging drive from an angle behind for a corner.

Livingston at least got a shot away in the second half when Mo Sangare saw his effort tipped behind by substitute goalkeeper Jojo Wollacott.

But the second period was largely a non-event as Hibs eased their way to the points.

Craig Levein believes Nicky Clark’s late equaliser against Livingston could be looked back on as a crucial moment in St Johnstone’s season.

Saints jumped to ninth in the cinch Premiership after Clark nodded home with three minutes remaining to cancel out Andrew Shinnie’s opener.

The McDiarmid Park boss admitted it was a game that was unlikely to live long in the memory but insisted the end result could be significant in his side’s quest to avoid the drop.

“I think in the end it will be a good point,” Levein said.

“Two teams sitting at the bottom of the table who are obviously concerned about their league positions and who realise if it comes down to a scrap then they have to roll their sleeves up and really have a go.

“I think what you saw was the outcome of that pressure, there wasn’t much good football or calm thinking going on and it was a real fight.”

Levein was delighted for Clark, who came up with his sixth goal of the season to drag St Johnstone level.

It was the striker’s third game in the space of a week – his most consistent run of matches in what has been an injury-plagued season.

“Playing Nicky was a big one for me because I was really concerned about him breaking down,” Levein added.

“But if we can get quality balls into the box he’ll score goals.

“We had a lot of crosses but they were poor until Graham Carey put a great one in and then you wouldn’t want anyone else on the end of it other than Nicky.

“That’s what he does, he scores goals, he’s done it his whole career.”

David Martindale is adamant his Livingston team has what it takes to survive the drop, despite being denied the chance to move within four points of nearest rivals Ross County.

It was a familiar tale for Livi, who have now conceded important goals in each of their last three away league fixtures.

“It’s difficult, the players are fighting tooth-and-nail and anyone can see how much the players are putting into the games,” Martindale said.

“I’d never question their heart and their spirit, from matchday one to where we are just now, I think that has been there in abundance.

“The players are gutted in there, they’ve been gutted most games when they don’t pick three points up.

“But I’m trying to explain – and I’m not trying to come over delusional – if you’re 1-0 down and you score the late goal then it changes the narrative to a great point.”

St Johnstone denied Livingston a crucial win at McDiarmid Park as Nicky Clark’s late goal snatched them a 1-1 draw in a game littered with stoppages.

It looked as if the visitors were set to emerge victorious following Andrew Shinnie’s first-half opener, but Clark glanced home with three minutes left to give Saints a share of the spoils.

There was 20 minutes of stoppage time across the course of the match, with injuries preventing the game from having any sort of rhythm.

The hosts moved ahead of Aberdeen and up to ninth in the table, while the Lions remain bottom, though they have cut the gap between themselves and Ross County to six points.

Adama Sidibeh made a welcome return to the St Johnstone bench following a spell in hospital after collapsing on the pitch at the end of the 2-0 defeat to St Mirren a week ago.

There was little in the way of goalmouth action in a scrappy opening to proceedings and it took until the 25th minute for the first chance.

A loose pass from Dan Phillips was seized upon by Dan MacKay, but the Saints defence recovered just as the winger looked to get his shot away.

The visitors went close when Shinnie’s header from Sean Kelly’s free-kick dropped narrowly wide of the target.

Livingston were rewarded for their pressure when they broke the deadlock eight minutes before half-time.

Kelly’s corner was glanced on by Michael Devlin and Shinnie was on hand to brilliantly hook the ball beyond goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov from six yards.

Given the stop-start nature of the opening 45 minutes, it was little surprise when the fourth official indicated there would be eight minutes of added time – and that pattern was to continue as Diallang Jaiyesimi limped off to be replaced by Graham Carey.

St Johnstone finally mustered their first attempt on target in the final minute of stoppage time. Matt Smith picked out Clark who nodded weakly into the grateful arms of Shamal George when he really should have found the net.

It was Livi who began the second half the brighter, with Mitov twice called into action in the early stages.

The Bulgarian pulled off a brilliant stop to keep out MacKay’s swerving effort before diving low to grasp Cristian Montano’s shot.

David Keltjens’ cross narrowly evaded Stevie May as Saints chased a way back into the match, but their momentum continued to be interrupted by stoppages.

Kurtis Guthrie passed up a glorious opportunity to put the game out of reach of their hosts when he picked the pocket of Andy Considine and then raced clear on goal, only to then drag his angled drive past a post.

It was a moment the visitors would come to rue as Clark came up with a late leveller – nodding home Carey’s pinpoint delivery.

A further 10 minutes of time added on at the end of the second half presented both sides with an opportunity to claim victory, but Guthrie was hesitant at a crucial moment before laying the ball to Jason Holt who blazed over.

Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell was thrilled his players responded to his half-time criticism after watching them come from behind to beat Livingston.

The visitors trailed at the break to Tete Yengi’s third-minute strike but improved in the second 45 minutes after scoring through Sam Nicholson, Blair Spittal and substitute Jack Vale.

The win moves the Steelmen to within three points of the cinch Premiership top six, while Livingston are now seven points adrift at the bottom.

Kettlewell said: “It showed great character coming here. You can see their team was up after the first goal, which was really poor and I was really annoyed at half-time.

“It wasn’t how we passed the ball, it was the fact we all had eyes for the ball. It was a great reaction, the guys got some stick at half-time and the goals were of sheer quality.

“But once we get that organisation behind the ball it worked for us.”

Asked if his team now had their sights on top six, Kettlewell, whose team face Rangers at the weekend, added: “We have to, we won’t get carried away because it’s one victory, one win but we have to set the bar high.

“Simply from my side it’s about the performance, especially the second half. If we can piece together that first half against Celtic then we can put on a real show.

“It needs to be bigger picture. We’ve had so many strong performances since the turn of the year and games we should have won.

“We’ve conceded cheap and soft goals which happened tonight but play like we did in the second half then I think we can compete with most teams.

“That creative flair we have, the ruthless edge to score.

“We’re maybe third or fourth top scorers in the division and that speaks volumes for replacing someone like Kevin van Veen.

“We’ll need that to continue and that can set the bar for where we want to be and where we want to go.”

Livingston made the perfect start but ended the game looking like a team that were heading for relegation.

Manager Davie Martindale admits his side looked vulnerable after Motherwell equalised in the 49th minute through Nicholson.

He said: “Of course it’s confidence. That group at the start went to Easter Road (against Hibs), good value, shape and discipline.

“Now we look a million miles away from that and it’s down to belief.

“First half we gave up a wee bit of territory but that was part of the game plan.

“It probably gave them a wee bit more than I’d hoped. I thought we looked a threat on the counter.

“Shamal George didn’t have a lot to do then we go out and lose an early goal, a cheap goal.

“The game became very difficult for the players, position, form, eats into that.”

Motherwell came from behind to beat bottom side Livingston 3-1 and enhance their cinch Premiership top six hopes.

Livingston had taken the lead after only three minutes through Tete Yengi but Sam Nicholson levelled minutes into the second half before Blair Spittal notched a sublime goal.

Substitute Jack Vale compounded Livingston’s woes with a third in the 87th minute.

Motherwell climbed to within three points off the top six, while Livingston sit seven points adrift at the foot of the table with only 10 games left.

The home team made a fast start and Yengi gave them the lead following a flowing move.

The Australian was involved at the start with a lay-off to Bruce Anderson and the striker’s reverse pass set Daniel MacKay clear. His shot was blocked by Liam Kelly but the ball broke to Yengi and he swept a shot into the empty net.

It was the just the start Livingston needed after losing to an agonising stoppage-time goal in the weekend’s relegation battle at Ross County.

Motherwell could have levelled five minutes later but Bevis Mugabi headed a Spittal free-kick wide from 10 yards.

The visitors enjoyed plenty of possession but were struggling to create any clear-cut chances in the final third.

Their next opening did not come until the 28th minute when Spittal got on the end of Adam Devine’s pass inside the box but his miscued effort drifted wide.

MacKay had a shot saved by Kelly at the other end before the visitors finished the half strongly.

Spittal was again involved as he got on the end of a Stephen O’Donnell cross and his first-time shot was deflected just over.

From Spittal’s resulting free-kick Livingston goalkeeper Shamal George pushed Mugabi’s header behind.

Motherwell brought on Vale at the break and Stuart Kettlewell’s side drew level just four minutes later.

O’Donnell again delivered a cross from the right and this time Nicholson glanced a header beyond George from close range.

Livingston were dealt another blow after injured goalkeeper George had to be replaced by Michael McGovern in the 57th minute.

Motherwell grew in confidence after fighting back and Kettlewell’s team went ahead in the 71st minute with a sublime effort from Spittal.

Paul McGinn’s cross fell to the playmaker on the edge of the box and he smashed an unstoppable left-footed half-volley into the top corner.

Vale then made sure of the points when he nodded home three minutes from time.

Shamal George knows bottom side Livingston have the opportunity to bunch up the relegation battle in the next couple of weeks as a crunch game against Ross County awaits.

David Martindale’s side had won once in 18 games in all competitions – against Raith Rovers in the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup – before they came from two down to beat another Championship side Partick Thistle 3-2 in the next round of the competition in Glasgow.

The Lions followed that up with a battling 1-0 win against St Mirren last Saturday which cut the deficit behind County to three points ahead of their meeting in Dingwall on Saturday, although the Staggies have played one game less.

Livingston then face St Johnstone and Motherwell who are 10th and ninth respectively and goalkeeper George said: “That’s our main focus, catching the teams above us, but one game at a time and not get too ahead of ourselves.

“We’ve obviously got Ross County, St Johnstone and Motherwell, three teams around us. One game at a time but it’s a good time to try to bring teams back into it with us.

“Even though we haven’t been playing great lately I feel like Partick was a turnaround for us and fingers crossed we can go continue that going towards the end of the season.

“We got three big games now, which we need to get points from to bring others back into the mix.

“Like I said, one game at a time but everyone is focused on those three games because they’re three teams around us. Fingers crossed we can go to Ross County and get the points we need.”

George revealed a night out in Glasgow organised by the Livi boss after the Partick game helped team bonding as the battle to avoid the drop continues.

The former Colchester keeper said: “We went for some food and it brought the boys together and everyone had a good time.

“I think it was needed. We weren’t doing anything together as a team so it was good for the boys to be out again.

“It must have had some effect, it was a big win against St Mirren and everyone is still buzzing from it.”

David Martindale insists he will not get carried away despite Livingston finally ending their long wait for a cinch Premiership victory against St Mirren.

Tete Yengi’s goal in added time of the first half was enough for the Lions to claim their first win in 18 league matches.

Livi have now cut the gap between themselves and Ross County to just three points, with the teams set to face each other in Dingwall next Saturday.

“I am happy for the group,” he said. “The group has to take massive credit and I am delighted for them.

“When you are in an adverse situation and every week that hole gets bigger, there is a lot of anxiety and stress.

“The squad and staff have stayed buoyant – they have always been positive and I am delighted for them.”

The Livi boss was thrilled by the display of his goalkeeper Shamal George, who kept out Mikael Mandron’s late penalty to secure all three points.

George has been in and out of the team since the arrival of Michael McGovern last month, but showed his quality in a man-of-the-match performance against Saints.

“Michael McGovern has been a big turning point for Shamal,” Martindale added.

“Shamal has all the ability in the world, he is a great kid, trains impeccably well and I think he needed taken out his comfort zone.

“Michael coming in has done that, it has shown Shamal that if he’s not bang at it in games then he’s probably going to get dropped.

“I thought he was the best player on the park – hopefully that’s him kicked on a bit.”

Assistant boss Diarmuid O’Carroll praised what he beleived was a “brilliant” display by St Mirren, despite falling to defeat at the Tony Macaroni Arena.

The Buddies threw everything at the Livingston goal in the second half as they looked to drag themselves back into the game.

“I thought we were brilliant, it was just one of those days in front of goal,” O’Carroll said.

“We came here with a gameplan, we wanted to get the ball down and play, try create chances, put the ball into the box and sustain attacks – they did that to the letter.

“I think on any other day we win that game based on chances, but credit to Livingston, they battled, they fought and it shows you that they are right there for Davie.”

O’Carroll confirmed that Saints boss Stephen Robinson had been involved in a disagreement with a supporter after the full-time whistle.

Robinson appeared to be led away by Alex Gogic, and his number two insists the gaffer will always stand up for his players.

“I did see it. People are passionate about the game, there’s passion from our side,” he added.

“From a fans’ perspective, you come, you pay your money and you obviously want your team to win.

“We as a collective always go over (to the fans), whether we win, lose or draw.

“People pay their money and they can say what they want – but from our point of view, we can’t ask for much more of them.”

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