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David Martindale still focused on top six despite defeat

David Martindale File Photo
(Image credit: Jane Barlow)

Livingston manager David Martindale insisted his side can still secure a place in the top six of the cinch Premiership but admits they need results elsewhere to go their way.

Livi lost 1-0 to St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on Saturday, Callum Hendry scoring the only goal of the game in the third minute from the penalty spot after he was adjudged to have been caught by Jack Fitzwater’s elbow as they challenged for an aerial ball.

The decision frustrated Martindale, who felt Murray Davidson had been offside in the build-up to the incident, while he was also enraged by the “horrendous” choice not to award his team a spot-kick for a potential handball by Dan Cleary.

And Martindale is hoping that his players can put the decisions and defeat to one side and beat Motherwell next Saturday to give themselves a chance of grasping a third successive top-six finish. They also need either Hibernian or Ross County not to win, away to Hearts and Aberdeen respectively.

He said: “We’ve given ourselves a fighting chance. We can only control what we can control.

“It’s a huge game next week, but I am just bitterly disappointed that we lost this game of football – and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way to St Johnstone, because they defended the final third very well.

“I praised the players as I feel sorry for them, I thought they controlled a large part of the game and Livingston were the better football team. But when you give the opposition a goal start it gives them something to hang on to and fair play to St Johnstone, I thought they defended their 18-yard box very well.

“We’ve still got a chance but it’s out of our hands now. Looking before this fixture I felt that that would be the case going into the last game of the season and the permutations would all change. Who really knows who is going to make the top six?”

St Johnstone boss Callum Davidson, meanwhile, is happy with the depth of his squad, having included four January recruits in the starting line-up as they secured their first back-to-back league victories of the season to take them within six points of 10th-placed St Mirren.

Callum Hendry also scored his seventh goal since returning from a loan spell at Kilmarnock in the same month.

Davidson said: “It was probably the first time this year I’ve had to leave players out and they are fighting to get into the squad rather than just into the team.

“We played Melker (Hallberg), while Nadir (Ciftci) has struggled with his hamstring but you see today he is a quality player and hopefully Tony (Gallagher)’s okay after the tackle and we’ll assess him on Monday.

“Hendry wants to score more – he’s playing with loads of confidence just now. If we keep him fit and we’ve got Stevie May, Glenn Middleton, Theo (Bair), I have got an array of changes in there. It all looks positive going towards the end of the season.”

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