Kevin van Veen’s second-half penalty gave Motherwell a narrow but crucial 1-0 cinch Premiership win over Livingston at Fir Park.
An instantly forgettable first half ended goalless but the home side got on top after the break and the Dutch striker made no mistake from the spot in the 67th minute for his third goal in four games when referee Nick Walsh spotted a handball in the box.
Livi’s second-half substitute Dylan Bahamboula was sent off in the 77th minute for picking up the second of two yellow cards to compound a disappointing day for the visitors.
Both sides were coming off good victories from last week, with Livi looking for their first win at Fir Park since October 2002.
The West Lothian side were unchanged for the trip to Lanarkshire, with Scott Pittman making a club record 310th appearance for Livingston.
Well defender Ricki Lamie returned to face his former club after his return from suspension with Bevis Mugabi starting on the bench.
In the fourth minute Livi skipper Nicky Devlin tested Well keeper and opposition captain Liam Kelly with an angled drive from 20 yards but it was far from a whirlwind start.
The next chance did not arrive until the 21st minute when Well midfielder Sean Goss’ searching free-kick into the box was headed wide by the diving Lamie from only a few yards out.
It was all very laboured and both sets of supporters would have looked for better in the second half.
However, there was no initial improvement and Well boss Steven Hammell made changes in the 53rd minute, bringing on Josh Morris and Joe Efford for Connor Shields and Dean Cornelius.
Van Veen hit the side netting moments later with a drive after making space for himself in the box, claiming to no avail that Livi keeper Shamal George had got a touch.
As the home side remained the more likely to open the scoring, Scotland international Stephen O’Donnell fired over the bar from 30 yards on the hour mark and there was a sense they were getting closer.
Bahamboula replaced Sean Kelly for Livi in the 64th minute before the visitors fell behind.
Goss’ header at the back post from a Morris cross was blocked by Cristian Montano and as the home players claimed handball, referee Walsh took his time before pointing to the spot – perhaps his assistant got involved – with Van Veen slamming in the spot-kick.
The visitors were further damaged when Bahamboula, booked for a foul on Blair Spittal, was then sent off for a challenge on Goss, leaving Livi with 10 men for the final stages and their late rally all too little and too late.
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