The striker scored a first half penalty before adding to his tally in the second with a goal and an assist to hand Motherwell a firm grip on the game. Jack Fitzwater’s header on the hour mark set up a nervy 30 minutes for the home team but Chris Long eased fears with a cool finish, moving the Fir Park club to joint-eighth in the Scottish Premiership. Livi remain fifth.
The hosts had dominated the first half but they didn’t need to work too hard for their goal. Matej Poplatnik was making his first start since December for Livingston but got caught on the wrong side of Robbie Crawford, sending him tumbling in the box.
Cole stepped up and smashed the ball down the middle to hand Graham Alexander’s side a deserved half-time lead. The hosts were controlling the play and created several chances, two of which came in the first 90 seconds. Tony Watt and Jordan Roberts linked up to test Robby McCrorie while Stephen O’Donnell also challenged him.
Livi had made a slow start to the game which allowed Motherwell that control but former Lion Kelly in the Motherwell net still had to be sharp. Poplatnik almost atoned for his foul with an instinctive header but the QPR loanee made a terrific one-handed stop.
Josh Mullin hit the bar with a free-kick from 25 yards while Jon Guthrie earned himself a half-chance after the interval. It was a reminder to Motherwell that they had to convert at least another one of the chances they were creating.
And from nothing they had that vital second goal. A Jake Carroll free-kick fell at the feet of Barry Maguire, who’s shot took a deflection into the path of Cole, the striker smashing the ball bottom corner 14 minutes into the second half.
60 seconds later and the Motherwell lead was halved by Fitzwater, who headed past a helpless Kelly as his backline went to sleep at a set-piece. It was a disappointing goal for Alexander’s team to concede so soon after just scoring.
It handed Livi spirit and belief they could a positive result which seemed unlikely just a minute before they scored. But an error at the back killed their hopes with 22 minutes to go, McCrorie’s clearance blocked by Roberts, Cole picking up before Long finished smartly to wrap up three points.
David Martindale’s side had given Motherwell something to think about in the second half and Carroll was forced into a goal line block near the end. But Fir Park side did more than enough for three points and it drags them further away from the relegation danger zone. Here are three things we learned.
Cole the difference
He might not be scoring goals of brilliance but Cole is doing what all good striker’s do – being in the right place at the right time. His first was a decent penalty, his second came off a deflection and his assist for Long’s goal was courtesy of an error.
With his contract up in the summer, Alexander will be keen to tie his top scorer down to a new deal.
Livingston have now gone without a win in six matches. While this is hardly end of the world stuff given their impressive 14-game unbeaten run at the start of Martindale’s reign, the goals conceded will have disappointed the Lions boss.
A foul wasn’t needed for Cole’s penalty while his defence couldn’t clear their lines on two occasions. They now need to wait until next week to fully confirm their top six spot.
Fir Park fortress
A winless Livi run at Fir Park has been extended following this result. Livingston won 5-1 in North Lanarkshire back in 2002 but have failed to pick up a victory following this large victory in the early 2000s. After Motherwell’s second, the streak looked likely to continue.
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