Substitute Kenneth Vargas scored his first Hearts goal to secure a 1-0 victory over Livingston and ease the pressure on manager Steven Naismith.

The Jambos started the night in the bottom six of the cinch Premiership and, after failing to win any of their previous three matches, they looked set for more frustration until their Costa Rican summer signing stepped off the bench to make their dominance over the Lions count in the 79th minute.

Livingston boss David Martindale – who was the subject of a failed approach from St Johnstone regarding their managerial vacancy earlier this week – was left frustrated as his side suffered a third straight defeat to slip to second-bottom spot.

Naismith made five changes to the side that started Sunday’s agonising 2-1 defeat away to Rangers as Stephen Kingsley, Alan Forrest, Cammy Devlin, Alex Lowry and Liam Boyce replaced Toby Sibbick, Odel Offiah, Jorge Grant, Calem Nieuwenhof and Vargas.

Martindale also rang the changes following Saturday’s 2-0 loss at home to Dundee, with goalkeeper Shamal George, Cristian Montano, Luiyi de Lucas, Dan MacKay, Bruce Anderson and Steven Bradley dropping out to make way for Jack Hamilton, Scott Pittman, Miles Welch-Hayes, Mo Sangare, Andrew Shinnie and Stephen Kelly.

Forrest – playing at wing-back for Hearts – had the first effort of the night from the edge of the box but it lacked the power to trouble former Jambos No.1 Hamilton.

At the other end, Kelly shot over the bar from distance but it would prove to be the Lions’ only notable attempt of a match largely controlled by the hosts.

Captain Lawrence Shankland threatened in the 14th minute when his powerful goal-bound strike from the edge of the box was bravely headed behind for a corner by Lions skipper Mikey Devlin.

The Hearts striker went even closer in the 20th minute when he curled a shot against the crossbar after the ball broke into his path 12 yards out.

The hosts continued to enjoy the majority of the ball but struggled to create clear chances against a well-organised Lions side. Shankland endured more frustration when his ferocious shot from the edge of the box was brilliantly beaten away by Hamilton.

Naismith made a change at half-time as Grant replaced Devlin in a move designed to inject more invention into Hearts’ play.

They continued to probe early in the second period, with Kingsley seeing a strike tipped behind by Hamilton before Lowry shot just over. Shankland then drove another effort agonisingly wide.

The half-chances and near-misses continued for Hearts but, just as it looked like it was not to be their night, Vargas – 10 minutes after entering the fray – stole in at the back post to get on the end of an inviting ball across goal from Grant and fire home from close range.

Livingston have rejected an approach from St Johnstone to speak to David Martindale about their managerial vacancy.

The Lions boss emerged as the early front-runner to replace Steven MacLean, who was sacked by the Perth club on Sunday with the team bottom of the cinch Premiership after no wins from their opening nine games.

Martindale refused to be drawn on speculation linking him with the McDiarmid Park job when he was asked about it at his media briefing on Monday to preview Wednesday’s match away to Hearts.

However, Saints made their move for the Livi manager later that day, only to be rebuffed by the West Lothian club.

Lions chief executive Dave Black moved to clarify the situation on Tuesday evening.

“Following recent speculation over the past 48 hours regarding men’s first-team manager David Martindale, I was keen to provide supporters with an update,” said Black in a statement released on the club’s website.

“Yesterday, the club received an official approach from St Johnstone for permission to speak to David about taking on the vacant position at McDiarmid Park. Following discussions with John Ward, John Mcllvogue and David himself, I informed St Johnstone this morning that we wouldn’t be giving permission for that conversation to take place.

“David has been pivotal in both the on-field success of the club over recent years and on the off-field growth and stability of the club too – something we wish to see continue under David’s leadership for a long time to come.

“Whilst I’ve no doubt that David has ambitions to move on and further his career in management eventually, we weren’t particularly keen to see that next move be to a league rival who we’re currently directly competing against.

“Such is the character of the man, David’s first response was solely on ensuring that full focus remained on tomorrow’s game at Tynecastle and that everyone at the club didn’t lose sight of that. His own mantra has always been that everything at Livingston must be about the we and not the me, and that very much remained the same following these discussions.

“I’ve no doubt this news will be very well received amongst you, our fans, and we hope to see you continue to get right behind David, his coaching staff and all the players as we head into a busy schedule of games between now and the winter break.”

Martindale spent four years in prison from 2006 for drug and money laundering offences but has impressively rehabilitated himself since his release in 2010.

After first getting involved with Livingston on a part-time volunteer basis in 2014, he worked his way up to become manager in 2020. Despite operating with one of the lowest budgets in Scotland’s top flight, the 49-year-old has overseen three consecutive mid-table finishes in his time in charge, helping him attract the attention of St Johnstone.

Alex Cleland is currently in interim charge of Saints while their search for a new manager continues.

Michael Nottingham is desperate to get himself fully fit and start repaying David Martindale for bringing him to Livingston.

The 34-year-old defender moved to the Lions from Accrington in the summer after previously spending his entire career in England.

However, he has been restricted to just two appearances so far after struggling with tendonitis, stemming from an ankle tendon injury that plagued him for much of last season.

“It’s been very frustrating because I came up here to play games, but with that setback it’s been physically draining,” he said.

“Mentally it’s been about trying to keep myself in the zone and take it day by day. I had my injury last season that kept me out for the majority of the season so I know exactly what I have to go through (to get fit again), but it’s obviously not what you want.

“The gaffer signed me to be a big part of the team this year and I wouldn’t say I feel like I’ve let him down because you can’t help injuries at times, but I feel like I haven’t given back yet so I really want to make sure I’m able to do that as soon as possible.

“The club have been amazing with me. The staff and the boys have been really understanding and supportive. It’s been amazing.”

Nottingham has not played since a second-half substitute appearance away to Rangers on August 12, but he is now back in training and has an outside chance of being in the squad for Wednesday’s cinch Premiership trip to Hearts.

“I’ve always been a player in the past who has been quite robust and able to train regularly and play in the majority of games, but since my big injury last year, that’s kind of been taken away from me,” he said. “I don’t think my body’s been conditioned well enough.

“For me, right now, it’s about getting back training regularly, trying to manage my body and be available for selection as much as possible.

“When I get my opportunity I need to bring my experience to the team and help them try to win games. I need to try to get my fitness levels up as quickly as possible.”

Dundee manager Tony Docherty paid tribute to Joe Shaughnessy after the Dark Blues captain’s late double earned the visitors a deserved 2-0 victory at Livingston.

Shaughnessy struck twice as Dundee finally made their pressure count against 10-man Livingston, who had Cristian Montano sent off for violent conduct following a coming together with Malachi Boateng in the 70th minute.

And Docherty was thrilled by defender Shaughnessy’s contribution in the final third.

He said: “I have never seen Joe score two goals in a game before.

“I’ve worked with him since he was a kid and I’ve not seen that in a reserve game, a youth-team game or anything.

“I’m delighted for him, he’s the epitome of what the team is. He was my first signing and leads by example.

“He does that every day and it’s good to see players like him get their rewards.

“I was also pleased for Trevor Carson, that’s four clean sheets now.

“We have good young players but the bedrock is the experience and they’re so important.”

Only two points separate Dundee in fourth and 11th placed Ross County but Docherty is delighted his top-flight newcomers, who face Rangers in midweek, are heading in the right direction.

He added: “Fourth place? That’s good. Before the game we did say that if we can pick up three points who knows where it’s going to take us.

“I’m surprised by that but we won’t get giddy or get ahead of ourselves. That’s us now played nine games and we’re in a decent position but we have a tough game to come on Wednesday night.”

Shaughnessy broke the deadlock in the 82nd minute when he turned in an effort at the front post from Aaron Donnelly’s long throw before then getting on the end of Owen Beck’s corner three minutes later.

Livingston manager David Martindale said: “The sending off definitely does not make the game any easier, it’s a bad decision by Cristian, it’s a red card all day long and I’ll be speaking to him on Sunday about it. It’s a moment of madness really.

“We’re reduced to 10 men but to concede two set plays it does not matter if you have 10 men on the park, you still have 10 men behind the ball.

“We’ve gone and lost two very poor set plays from second contacts, we lost two set plays last week and I think you can see that we miss big Ayo Obileye.

“Did the 10 men have something to do with it? Probably not. I think we have to take responsibility, I’ve got to take responsibility.”

David Martindale heaped praise on Livingston for the ruthless way they put 10-man Motherwell to the sword in a 2-0 victory.

The Lions made light work of cutting open their visitors once Lennon Miller had been red carded in first-half stoppage time for clipping the heels of Dan MacKay.

Bruce Anderson made the breakthrough only seven minutes into the second half and Sean Kelly added a second from the spot nine minutes later.

It was a first home victory for the Almondvale side in the Premiership this season and they remain undefeated against teams outside the Old Firm.

Livi boss Martindale said: “We’re not getting carried away, but it’s three points and a clean sheet.

“I felt we just shaded it 11 v 11. Motherwell have had a fairly good start to the campaign and they’ve got a good shape about them and a good structure. They’re well coached.

“I don’t think they caused us many problems in the first half and we worked on Dan MacKay, in particular, attacking those central zones at pace.

“We got our just rewards from it and Dan got his just rewards from it.

“I thought wee Bruce was brilliant today with his link-up, he was fantastic and brings Dan into play, and they went down to 10 men.

“I’ll be honest, I thought it was going to be a difficult second half, in terms of trying to break Motherwell down.

“But we managed to get in behind them quite early on for the first goal and then James Penrice did magnificently for the second goal.

“That took a wee bit of the sting out of the game, playing against 10 men. The boys have got to take a lot of credit for the clean sheet.”

Martindale reserved special praise for Anderson, who led the line for Livingston impressively and grabbed his sixth goal of the campaign.

He added: “Bruce’s link-up was brilliant. It’s a part of his game he needs to join together and be a bit more consistent with.

“He’s always going to score goals if you get the ball into the box, but outside the box he knows it’s an area of his game he needs to work on.

“But, outside the box, I thought he was tremendous today and that was the most pleasing aspect for me.”

Meanwhile, Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell was angered by his side’s second-half capitulation.

The Fir Park side opened the season in fantastic form with 10 points from a possible 12, but have now lost four in a row.

Kettlewell said: “There was nothing in the game before [the red card] and that’s the bit that really frustrates me.

“But it also seemed to be the catalyst for a real degree of naivety from our point of view.

“The decision making wasn’t good enough, we conceded one penalty and could have conceded another.

“It all just spiralled out of control and I have never seen that since being here. It irks me and it begins to anger me, as we have had a lot of plaudits for being a good side.

“We are always well organised but in that second half, it all just spiralled. I take responsibility for that but I have never seen it from the players before.”

Livingston manager David Martindale believes the club’s new owner will be a “huge positive” – even though he knows very little about him.

The cinch Premiership club announced on Sunday night that Baycup Ltd and sole director John McIlvogue had acquired a majority shareholding.

Earlier this year, McIlvogue led a consortium that saved well-known Glasgow bakery firm Mortons Rolls from the brink of collapse and rescued more than 100 jobs. His other business interests include food and carpet firms.

McIlvogue has negotiated the Livingston deal with chairman John Ward and is set to meet Martindale and the rest of the staff on Tuesday.

The Livi manager said: “I don’t really know anymore than you guys but what I will say is there’s a new owner and it’s got to be a positive for the football club, because where we have been for the past three or four years has not been great.

“I am going to be really honest, it’s been really, really difficult for the staff in the club.

“So to have fresh impetus, a fresh skill-set coming into the building and hopefully upstairs aligned with downstairs and a wee bit of help upstairs for everybody in the club, that’s a huge, huge positive for the club.

“I have not even met these new owners or the new owner, whatever it is. I don’t even know him, but I just know it needed done and hopefully this is the step in the right direction.”

Livingston made pre-tax loss of more than £800,000 for the 2021-22 financial year and projected another loss of about £400,000 for last season.

Martindale said: “There’s been a lot of sleepless nights and sometimes you come into your work, and it’s not just me, it’s probably every member of staff, and you just think ‘I just want to be able to do my own job’.

“I want to be a football manager, I want to be a chief exec, whatever your role is, it’s been really difficult for all the staff because we are all mucking in and trying to keep this club in the Premiership. Sometimes it’s like pushing water up a hill, that’s how it feels.

“I don’t know the owner, but I trust John Ward implicitly and I am looking forward to the challenges ahead because there is going to be a skill-set that helps us face those challenges as a collective unit. Hopefully it’s the start of a fresh beginning for Livingston.”

The share purchase process remains ongoing, but McIlvogue has assumed control from a consortium called OPCCO6, which includes Ward, who is one of two club directors along with chief executive Dave Black.

That vehicle owned 1.3million of close to 2million shares in the club at the last confirmation, but a further 3.8million shares were created in June.

Historic ownership and club finance issues have been the subject of court cases and police investigations.

Martindale said: “It’s public knowledge, there are probably three or four ongoing court cases I have had to take an active part in in terms of sitting in on meetings because I am getting kept up to date with what’s going on.

“These court cases centre around alleged ownership of the football club and alleged loans.

“I hope I don’t need to deal with this on an ongoing basis.

“There’s only three or four of us in the building, there’s only me and Dave here on a daily basis, so generally anything that comes through the door, we have to deal with it.”

Martindale does not expect an immediate uplift in his football budget, but the club hope that McIlvogue can bring in new advertising revenue in his role as chief commercial officer.

“I’m not going to be chapping the door asking for more money in my budget,” he said. “I’ve got the budget, I know what I am working with.

“I think it’s important as a club we look at ways to increase our turnover, which in turn should hopefully lead to an increase in the budget.

“We lost a lot of money last year so I think it was important we got someone who was coming in and was going to underwrite any losses we are going to have this year.

“But that doesn’t mean I’ve not got to be frugal and spend within our means.

“But it’s nice to have that comfort knowing there is someone in the building who has offered to do that, who is in here to help the football club moving forward.”

Alistair Johnston hailed team-mate Daizen Maeda as a “machine” after the Celtic forward capped a fine performance against Livingston with his side’s third goal.

Brendan Rodgers’ men were ahead through a Reo Hatate penalty when Joe Hart was sent off for a foul on Mo Sangare.

However, Celtic extended their advantage through Matt O’Riley before claiming a third from Maeda in stoppage time.

Johnston hailed the Japanese international as an inspiration for his tireless running.

The Celtic full-back said: “He’s a machine. That’s the simplest way to look at it.

“You look back at the Rangers match and he was just flying around the pitch for 90 minutes and it was the same in this match as well. He’s got an unbelievable engine.

“He’s a nightmare to play or train against. Just ask any of our full-backs who have to go up against him. He’s just constant.

“He’s like this every day, which makes it really difficult for us, although it’s good to train against a guy like that. You can never take a minute off.

“He really does count for two on that side as you think you bypass him with the ball and he’s doubling down, pressing the guy again.

“It’s amazing to watch from my side across the pitch as you know the guy doesn’t know what’s coming as all of a sudden Daizen is there again. He’s a joy to have in your team, he’s such a weapon.

“He just helps us out in so many ways; the attacking side we see the goal he scored in the 90th minute and then the defensive side as well. He’s really special to have.”

Livingston manager David Martindale praised Celtic’s performance and rubbished the notion that they have not been as good since Ange Postecoglou left the club.

“I watched them on Tuesday (in the Champions League against Feyenoord) and I thought they were fantastic in the press, trying to get the ball back,” he said.

“There have been a few things floating about ‘they are not the same’ or ‘they’ve not clicked’, but I think you saw a wee bit of a change with the Champions League and then today.

“I think they showed true character and true spirit when they went down to 10 men. But we shoot ourselves in the foot by giving away a really avoidable second goal. When I look at all three goals, they’re really avoidable.”

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers hailed a “monumental” victory as his team ran out 3-0 winners away to Livingston with 10 men.

A Reo Hatate penalty had the visitors ahead before Joe Hart was shown the first red card of his career for fouling Mo Sangare.

The setback, though, did not affect Celtic and second-half goals from Matt O’Riley and Daizen Maeda sealed a professional win.

Rodgers said: “It was a monumental win in terms of getting back in after playing with nine men during the week [in the Champions League against Feyenoord].

“Livingston is a notoriously hard place to come anyway, never mind with 10 men, so to play with that mentality was very good.

“Attitude and energy are what you need and that is what we had. You don’t get points here for style. You have to dig in and be resilient.

“I thought we played well on a difficult surface and stylistically I thought we played better on the surface with 10 men.

“We always have a plan for that in terms of how we work, how we keep the calmness. I thought the players were outstanding.

“We added to that with two really good goals in the second half. As I said to the guys, when you have Daizen Maeda, it is not like playing with 10 men.

“He does the running of two men, he is absolutely incredible and I was so happy for him that he got his goal. He was so good on the day for us.”

Livingston manager David Martindale felt his team had played better when Celtic had their full complement on the pitch and expressed his frustration at losing a second goal so early into the second half.

He said: “In all honesty, we were probably better 11 v 11. Then the second goal comes after only two minutes in the second half.

“And then momentum goes back in Celtic’s favour. In the second half after that second goal, I think Celtic were worth their money. I thought they worked a lot harder than us all over the park.

“Their application, their endeavour and their desire were probably a lot better than what we showed against 10 men. Sitting here, I’m hugely frustrated at the result, but I don’t think we deserved more from the game in all honesty.”

Livingston manager David Martindale says he was conscious of the impact a delayed kick-off in their match against Ross County would have on the fans more than his players.

The Lions’ coach broke down a few miles north of Inverness, leading to a knock-on impact on their arrival in Dingwall and the starting time for the game.

However, when the match did eventually kick off 15 minutes late Livingston started well, and despite going behind to Simon Murray’s goal they were still able to earn a point after Bruce Anderson found the net.

“It probably had an effect on us, but how big I don’t know,” Martindale explained.

“We struggled to get accommodation. Inverness was fully booked and the closest we could get was Aviemore.

“You are trying to put the fans first as well as having player safety in mind with warming up. We needed an hour, so once we got here we could figure out the kick-off time.

“I don’t think the fans will be overly annoyed that it was a 15-minute delay, but if it had been 45 minutes that could have had a bigger impact, so I was very conscious of trying to get on the park as quickly as possible.

“Coming away with a point from Ross County, I probably would have taken that coming in, although I would have liked a clean sheet.”

For County boss Malky Mackay, there was an element of frustration over taking the lead and not being able to see the match out for all three points.

However, having seen Livingston up close for the first time this season, he suspects it will be a good result for the Staggies in time.

“The initial feeling after the game was that it was two points lost – but I think if I look back on this later in the season it will be a point gained,” Mackay said.

“Livingston will do well this year in this league. Davie knows how to put a team out and how to get points. I was so enthused by my team’s attitude and their willingness to keep striving to get three points.

“I’ve got three centre-backs who were absolutely immense, but all three of them switched off and made the wrong decision and they got their goal.

“I don’t want to be too harsh on them, because as the season goes on they are going to keep clean sheets for us.”

Livingston booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Viaplay Cup with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Ayr United.

The Scottish Premiership hosts avoided a potential banana skin, with goals in each half from Joel Nouble and Cristian Montano seeing off their Championship visitors.

Livingston, defeated 3-0 by Inverness in last season’s Scottish Cup, looked in no mood to allow lightning to strike twice against second-tier opposition.

It took them just 12 minutes to take the lead, with a second goal of the season for Nouble.

Jason Holt lifted a diagonal pass to the edge of the box, where Kurtis Guthrie won the aerial duel to flick the ball into the path of the overlapping Montano.

The wing-back burst to the by-line and his cutback was hammered into the net by the lurking Nouble.

It was just the start needed to settle any nerves as they dealt with the expectations of facing lower-league opponents.

Ayr, who defeated St Johnstone in an unbeaten group stage campaign, recovered quickly from going behind, however, and pushed forward in search of the equaliser.

Aiden McGeady, making his first start since joining in the summer, found space on the left side of the box in the 18th minute and cut back onto his right-hand side with enough room for a curling shot but Livi goalkeeper Shamal George held on.

The match was getting bogged down in a fierce midfield battle with few clear-cut opportunities at either end.

Stephen Kelly did have a chance with a set-piece in the 29th minute but his curling free-kick was saved by Ayr number one Robbie Mutch.

Kelly was also to the fore at the start of the second period as Livi sought a killer second.

In the 51st minute, Nouble could not quite find the room for a shot in a crowded box and laid the ball off to Kelly but the midfielder skied his effort over the bar from 18 yards.

Moments later, the former Rangers youngster threaded a superb pass through for the breaking Montano but Sean McGinty and George Stanger got back to crowd out the Livi man.

However, there was to be no stopping Montano in the 64th minute as the home side doubled their advantage.

The wing-back powered forward on the left side of the area to latch onto a through ball and when his initial shot was saved by Mutch, it rebound back off him and into the unguarded net.

Montano was denied a second with 14 minutes remaining when his low drive from a Bruce Anderson cutback was turned round the post by Mutch.

When Ayr substitute Fraser Bryden failed to get enough on a Logan Chalmers cross nine minutes from time, allowing George to smother from close range, the visitors’ hopes of staging a late comeback slipped away.

Michael Beale spoke of “a rough week behind the scenes” ending on a high after a late Rangers surge gave them a 4-0 cinch Premiership win over Livingston at Ibrox.

The Govan outfit came in for heavy criticism after losing their league opener 1-0 at Kilmarnock last weekend and there were still some misgivings after the Gers beat Servette 2-1 in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier at home on Wednesday night.

On a day that midfielder Jose Cifuentes made his first start, Sam Lammers opened the scoring with a drive after 10 minutes but it was a struggle thereafter until Brazilian attacker Danilo headed in a second in the 78th minute, with further goals from substitutes Abdallah Sima and Kieran Dowell putting gloss on the scoreline.

Beale said: “The game was in three parts. The first part we started really well and scored a really good first goal.

“Todd (Cantwell) did great linking with Cyriel (Dessers) and it was nice for Sam to get his first official goal.

“Cifuentes had a fantastic debut but after his goal gets called off (for handball) we slowed down and got stuffy.

“We spoke about that but it didn’t improve till the subs came on. If anything part of our play was wasteful when we had good moments.

“There was tension in the stadium. We had some good moments when we should have killed things off and didn’t.

“Fair play to Sima and Rabbi (Matondo), they gave us what we needed and took us up the pitch and we got back to where we started in the game. We improved and I’m pleased that those three then got their first goals too.

“So it was a mixed bag. It was a rough week behind the scenes. Players going into the first home game in the league in a season when we are under more than a little bit of pressure.

“For the new guys they rode every emotion this week. That’s why at the end of the week when I pick the bones out of it I’ll be positive rather than pessimistic.

“The new guys have scored their goals, Dujon (Sterling) had his debut, Jose was excellent and Jack (Butland) has his first clean sheet so all in all, the week has ended better than it started.”

Livi boss David Martindale was somewhat bemused to leave Ibrox on the back of such a negative scoreline.

He said: “Goals change games. Believe it or not, I was sitting there thinking that (goalkeeper) Shamal George had a good game but he’s picked the ball out of the net four times.

“I think this has been my 10th year at Livingston and we’ve played Rangers in eight of those years.

“I’ve been battered in games, I’ve lost them 1-0, I’ve lost them 2-0. I think this is my heaviest defeat at Ibrox and I genuinely think we’ve been in the game for 78 minutes.

“We managed to nullify a lot of the threats that Rangers posed, so I was fairly happy.

“Listen, we can do better at the first goal, but I genuinely thought we could get a goal at 1-0.

“I was just about to make a couple of changes before the second goal went in, but we allowed a cross to come in from (Borna) Barisic which we knew they were going to do and we didn’t defend the back stick well enough.

“Rangers got huge energy, confidence and momentum from the crowd because up until that point, the game could have swung – they looked like they could score again and we looked like we could get one back.

“I’m frustrated, but also proud of the players up to a certain level, and also disappointed for them. I could see how much they put into it.”

Sam Lammers, Danilo, Abdallah Sima and Kieran Dowell all scored their first competitive goals for Rangers as the Light Blues came on strong to beat Livingston 4-0 in the cinch Premiership at Ibrox.

Attacking midfielder Lammers hammered in the opener after 10 minutes as the hosts dominated but it was late in the second half before Michael Beale’s new-look side secured the points.

Brazilian attacker Danilo headed in a second in the 78th minute before Sima pounced from close range six minutes later with fellow second-half substitute Dowell thrashing in a fourth in the final minute of normal time.

The Govan outfit lost their league opener at Kilmarnock last week before beating Servette 2-1 in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier at Ibrox on Wednesday night.

Boss Beale – who has signed nine new players this summer with the promise of more to come – will see this as a building block for his side but more will be required going forward, starting with the return game against Servette on Tuesday night.

As Beale revealed on Friday, Jose Cifuentes, the 24-year-old Ecuador international midfielder signed last week from Los Angeles FC, made his starting debut. Centre-back Leon Balogun was back in again for the first time since returning to the club for a second spell, with Ryan Jack and Connor Goldson rested.

It was a patient start by the home side and the opener came when influential midfielder Todd Cantwell’s shot from inside the box was blocked by the foot of Livi keeper Shamal George but Lammers slammed in the rebound from 16 yards.

The goal forced Livi to come out their shell a little although a mix-up in defence allowed John Souttar a shot at goal only for the Gers defender to balloon the ball high over the bar, before George dived full length to tip a Cifuentes drive past the post.

When captain James Tavernier’s delivery came over, Cifuentes volleyed into the net at the second attempt but after a VAR check, referee Don Robertson awarded a free-kick to Livingston for an initial hand ball by the midfielder.

The tempo dropped towards the end of the first half which finished with Light Blues forward Cyriel Dessers heading a Tavernier cross over the bar.

Lammers headed a Borna Barisic cross just wide of the target at the start of the second period and missed the target again from a Dessers cut-back, after George had made a fine save from a Danilo drive.

In a rare Livingston attack, Gers keeper Jack Butland was tested twice in a minutes by Andrew Shinnie, twice making good saves before Livi defender Ayo Obileye threw himself to block a Dessers drive from 14 yards after he had been set up by Danilo, the corner coming to nothing.

In a 68th minute counter-attack, Danilo flicked a Cifuentes cross over the bar from two yards out which cranked up frustration levels, however all was soon well in Govan.

Rabbi Matondo and Sima came on for Lammers and Dessers and in the 77th minute Sima drove a shot from point-blank range against George but the second goal was on its way, coming when Barisic’s deep cross found Danilo at the back post and he rose to head past the Livi keeper for his first Gers goal and alleviate the building pressure.

Dujon Sterling came on among more substitutions to make his Rangers debut before Danilo hit the post from close range.

Sima then opened his account in a Light Blue jersey and there was time for Dowell, on for Cantwell, to fire in off the crossbar for number four to make his mark at Ibrox.

Aberdeen manager Barry Robson lamented his team’s wasteful finishing after they began the cinch Premiership season with a hard-fought goalless draw at Livingston.

There was a distinct dearth of goalmouth action in both boxes, with the Dons unable to register a single shot on target.

Duk lacked composure in both halves as he failed to test Lions goalkeeper Shamal George from promising positions.

And Robson reckons his team would have picked up all the spoils had they been more composed in the final third.

He said: “We’ve got a clean sheet on the first day of the season at a place where it is always difficult to come and play.

“If Duk had his shooting boots we could have come away with a good result today.

“He would have put those chances away last year, and when you come down here you have to take them.

“We tried to play a bit longer and use our speed against their back three as when our technical players got on the ball they just got fouled.

“But when we tried to go in behind they just got deeper and deeper.

“You will never come down here and play free-flowing football but we tried to come and get the three points and could have done if Duk had been at it a bit more.

“But credit to Livi, they slowed it down, broke up the game with fouls and came away with a point.”

Livingston finished the game the stronger of the two teams and at least tested Dons goalkeeper Kelle Roos with efforts from Cristian Montano and Ayo Obielye.

Lions manager Davie Martindale, meanwhile, is adamant that his team will not be “bullied” this season after watching them stand up to last season’s third best side.

Martindale felt his team looked soft in defending their box at times last term after they let a top-six berth slip through their grasp.

He said: “The game went how I thought it was going to go, we set up in a way that I felt would match up well against them, they like to press really high and are aggressive in their press.

“Set-plays they are big and they have great delivery but I felt we nullified most of the threats they posed throughout the game.

“The most important thing was getting a clean sheet.

“I felt from February onwards we were very naive and weak, got bullied and that is not something that will happen this year.”

Aberdeen picked up a point from a goalless draw after failing to register a single shot on target in a hard-fought encounter at Livingston.

There was no shortage of effort from both teams but there was a distant lack of goalmouth action.

Livingston finished the game strongly and at least asked questions of Dons goalkeeper Kelle Roos with efforts from Cristian Montano and Ayo Obileye.

There was little for the 4,000-strong Aberdeen fans to get excited about although Johnny Hayes will be kicking himself that he did not at least find the target from a good position at the back post in the early stages of the second period.

Former Livingston captain Nicky Devlin was in the thick of the action during a fiercely competitive start.

Devlin lined up on the right of a three-man defence that included Dons debutant Sloboden Rubezic.

The visitors created the first chance of note in the 14th minute when Duk met Leighton Clarkson’s cross but the forward glanced a header over the bar.

The Lions grew into the game and Mo Sangare got their first shot away in 22 minutes. Montano’s cross was only half cleared and Sangare chested the ball down before swinging a half-volley wide.

It was the home side that created another chance in first-half stoppage time but Jamie Brandon was unable to get a touch on Montano’s cross.

The second period began how the first half ended with both team’s refusing to give an inch.

Aberdeen midfielder Hayes was disappointed not to score after being found at the back post by Clarkson after finding the side netting as he slid in to reach the cross.

At the other end, Montano volleyed well over after Luiyi de Lucas’ cross was flicked on by Joel Nouble.

The Colombian then registered the first shot on target in the 70th minute when he connected with Scott Pittman’s cross.

The Lions were the team finishing strongly and they were asking plenty of questions of the Aberdeen defence by throwing crosses into the area.

Obileye should have done better when he was found unmarked at the back post from Andrew Shinnie’s corner but Roos got down well to the effort.

Duk then sliced an effort well wide with four minutes left after meeting Ester Sokler’s effort in the box.

Livingston sub Bruce Anderson was carried off on a stretcher in stoppage time after a lengthy delay having come off second best in an aerial challenge with Rubezic.

David Martindale has hinted that some additional players could leave Livingston this summer after the club confirmed the names of six stars definitely on the way out.

The Lions boss had already revealed in recent weeks that captain Nicky Devlin – who has agreed to join Aberdeen – would depart under freedom of contract along with fellow first-team mainstays Jack Fitzwater and Stephane Omeonga.

And the West Lothian club announced on Monday, a day after their final cinch Premiership match against St Johnstone, that Jackson Longridge, Jaze Kabia and goalkeeper Brian Schwake – all of whom have been out on loan over the past season – will also move on.

There could yet be more players heading for the exit door, though, with Martindale trying to trim his squad to free up space for new recruits.

“It goes without saying that I offer my thanks and very best wishes to those players moving on this Summer,” the manager told the Lion website.

“I’ve spoken to other players still under contract with the club and explained that some won’t be in my plans next season and that they are free to speak with other clubs if the opportunity arises.”

Livingston had high hopes of finishing in the top six of the cinch Premiership after a promising first half of their campaign but they ended up eighth after losing nine and winning only three of their last 14 league games.

Page 3 of 4
© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.