Livingston boss David Martindale on Joel Nouble's return; game plan detail; continuity; and Garang Kuol's threat
and live on Freeview channel 276
Nouble has been out all year, but Livingston extended their unbeaten run to six matches without him in a 0-0 draw against Hearts at the Tony Macaroni Area. Martindale, who admitted Hearts sub Garang Kuol caused problems for his team in the second half, felt a draw was a fair result. The West Lothian team travel to Celtic Park in a good place, remaining seven points behind Hearts in fourth but with a game in hand.
“Big Joel will be back – 99.9 per cent,” said Martindale. “That brings another player in who today, I think, would’ve had a huge influence on the outcome. He’s been a huge loss but that’s six unbeaten so I might not bring him back in! We are in a good place collectively – we’ve added more consistency to our game and I genuinely believe that comes from continuity.”
He added: “That’s us taken five points from Hearts and Hearts have taken two from us. I think for a club our size, and I don’t like speaking about budgets, but that’s testament to how far we’ve come as a football club. Hearts are the third best team in the country. They’ve battered a few teams and scored a lot of goals. They deserve to be just outside the Old Firm. But anyone outside the Old Firm I think we can take points from.”
Martindale was at pains to point out how much tactical preparation his coaching staff put in to each match – after an audio of his half-time hairdryer team talk at Stenhousemuir last week was widely shared on social media.
He explained: “We put a lot of detail into the game. People look at the half-time team talk against Stenhousemuir and everyone puts it down to old school – I don’t think anyone has a clue about the detail that goes into coaching and game plans at this club and the information we’re giving the players.
“By doing that it allows us to open up opportunities and threats. We nullified Hearts for the majority of the game. At home I genuinely believe we can get points off anyone. The boys stick to the game plan and I’ve got players that understand football and for me that’s the biggest thing in football – players’ game knowledge and management.”
Winger Steven Bradley is one of two new arrivals this month and it was the winger signed from Hibs who had Livingston’s best chances, a lob which was cleared off the line by Hearts defender Kye Rowles.
“He’s probably put too much height on it,” said Martindale. “He lobbed the keeper 10 times over and gives the defender the time to get back and clear. Fair play to Steven he got there. He had a chance with a header as well he could have done better with. Stephen Kelly had a chance, Morgan Boyes from distance. But there’s not a lot in the game.
“Shamal has made a good double save. Kuol caused us problems, he’s new to the game up here and nobody has really seen him play but you see the pace he’s got. The longer the game went the more direct it got and that’s saying something.”