John McGlynn took comfort in the reaction he got from his Livingston players despite the narrow defeat by Rangers at the Energy Assets Arena on Saturday.
Lewis Macleod’s spectacular overhead kick proved the difference between the sides as the Glasgow giants returned along the M8 with all three points.
Nonetheless, it was the manner in which McGlynn’s players strived to make amends in wake of last Sunday’s heavy loss to Hearts that softened the disappointment of a fourth consecutive defeat for the Livi boss.
“I couldn’t feel much worse after last weekend so I’d like to think we were a bit better,” McGlynn admitted afterwards. “We can take a lot of positives because it was the reaction to last Sunday I was looking for.
“We all knew that with Rangers coming off a bad defeat as well that sometimes you can get a backlash, but that certainly wasn’t the case as I think our guys stood up and acquitted themselves very well. So I think with the amount of effort we put in and the way we passed the ball, we can count ourselves unlucky not to take anything.
“We’ve all been in the game long enough to know that against the Old Firm you will come under pressure and you’ll need to defend well and I thought we did do that for the vast majority of times. Yes they’ll create chances and yes you’ll need your goalkeeper to make one or two saves but [with] a bit more belief in front of goal and we might have got something out of the game ourselves.”
Indeed, it was Livi’s Danny Mullen who saw first sight of goal as early as the third minute, finding space in behind the visitors’ defence to charge down on goalkeeper Steve Simonsen, but the youngster lacked the composure to trouble the Rangers No.1 and blazed over.
If Mullen needed a lesson in the art of finishing then he witnessed it first hand just moments later from a player whose stock continues to rise.
Former Hearts midfielder Ian Black had time to pick out Macleod in the penalty area and although the attacker had his back to goal, the Scotland Under-21 internationalist showed terrific agility to readjust his body and send a crashing drive beyond Darren Jamieson and into the top right-hand corner of the net.
Give him his due, McGlynn was quick to compliment the quality of the strike saying: “It was certainly a good finish and Ian Black has delivered the ball into a good area,” he said. “We were maybe caught sleeping but some of our guys were saying he was offside. It certainly was a great finish though.”
There was some concern, though, when the hosts were forced into an early change after a Nicky Law effort went straight into the face of defender Craig Sives from just a couple of yards – the 28-year-old falling unconscious before being stretchered off the pitch to great applause from both sets of supporters.
Kris Boyd’s woes in front of goal showed no signs of easing when he missed a sitter from a couple of yards out just a minute after the restart – later being replaced by Jon Daly midway through the second half.
Nicky Clark was also guilty in front of goal as he blazed over from four yards when it seemed easier to score before Kyle Jacobs almost stole the show with a blistering 30-yard strike that rattled the side netting.
The Ibrox men’s supporters grew increasingly frustrated as Livi continued to attack on the counter and Jordan White was inches away from levelling as his clever turn and shot was a fraction wide of the far post.
Then, from a Jason Talbot corner, Kyle Jacobs rose highest to head the ball past Simonsen but there was Black sticking to his defensive duties to head the ball off the line and preserve Rangers’ slender lead.
Next up for Livingston is Stranraer on Sunday in the semi-final of the Petrofac Training Cup, an opportunity for the club to reach their first national final since they defeated Hibs in March 2004 to lift the CIS Insurance League Cup.
Livingston: Jamieson, Sives (Glen 27), Talbot, Fordyce, Kyle Jacobs, Keaghan Jacobs, O’Brien (Ogleby 86), McKenna, White, Mullen (Hippolyte 74), Rutherford. Subs: Grant, Robertson, Praprotnik, Burchill.
Rangers: Simonsen, Foster, Zaliukas (McGregor 46), Wallace, McCulloch, Law, Black, Boyd (Daly 65), Aird (Templeton 73), Macleod, Clark. Subs: Robinson, Smith, Faure, Shiels.
Referee: Stephen Finnie.