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Rice claims Hamilton played with fear during defeat to Livingston

Hamilton head coach Brian Rice claims his side played with fear as they went down 2-0 at Livingston.

Hamilton remain deep in Ladbrokes Premiership relegation danger after second-half goals from Ryan Hardie and Craig Halkett sealed a comfortable win for Livingston.

Rice demanded a reaction from their 5-0 hammering by Kilmarnock and felt he got that but admitted his players were fearful and claims they shot themselves in the foot with the goals they conceded.

Rice said: “We played with fear until the second goal went in. Then the shackles were off. ‘Oh, we’re getting beat 2-0… let’s play’.

“Good teams settle themselves into the game. But there was a fear in the first half. I’ve been in the game long enough – I could smell it. Boys were kicking the ball away instead of playing passes.

“I won’t accept them playing with fear.

“I asked to get things I never got on Saturday; commitment, spirit, to go and compete and I think we did that and then we go and shot ourselves in the foot with the two goals, two mistakes.

“I spoke at half-time about a clean sheet and one minute into the second half we make a stupid mistake and we’re chasing the game.

“I don’t think I could ask any more of them competing wise, it’s a hard place to come, everyone has found it difficult here and I thought we stood up to it but then we shot ourselves in the foot.”

Hamilton face second-bottom St Mirren on Saturday and Rice insists it is a huge game for their top-flight hopes.

He said: “It’s a big game, I’m not going to play it down. It’s a massive game for the two teams.

“I’m sure St Mirren will say the same thing. I read St Mirren have rested players because they see Saturday as a bigger game, that’s good they must be scared of us. “At this time of the season, they are all big games.”

Livingston manager Gary Holt was delighted with the win.

Goalscorers Hardie, who is on loan from Rangers, and Halkett, who has signed a pre-contract with Hearts, will not be at the club next season but Holt is already planning for that campaign.

Holt said: “I don’t care who scored. I’m focused on winning the game. I’m delighted the two of them scored, they are big threats. Ryan wanted more goals at this point in the season.

“Craig does what Craig does and that’s why he is leaving us. He’s going to pastures new to further his career.

“We have to replace them. That’s our job. Lyndon Dykes is coming in (from Queen of the South) and will annoy centre-halves in this league. He is a goal threat.

“We’ll go and recruit well and it’s the first time that we can plan. We’ve got a spell where we can try players and see if they’re up to the pressures of playing Premiership football.”