David Martindale fears struggling Livingston are the ‘victims of their own success’ after failing to match supporters’ expectations so far this season.
Defeat to St Mirren on Saturday leaves the Lions 10th in the cinch Premiership with just one victory to their name – a surprise success at home to Celtic – in eight league games.
Following consecutive top-six finishes in previous campaigns, the West Lothian side were booed from the pitch after Ethan Erhahon’s first-half strike decided a game of narrow margins in the Buddies’ favour.
Martindale was convinced his team deserved more but he is adamant the aim for Livi should always be to make sure they are still a top-flight club next term.
The Almondvale manager said: “I think we were everybody’s tip for 12th this year anyway. We’re sitting 10th, so we’re having a great season!
“The league’s a lot harder this season. You’re probably looking at six teams fighting it out to see who finishes 10th, ninth, eighth and seventh.
“That’s the league we’re going to be in and I can imagine the bottom half of the league is not going to be pretty.
“We were everybody’s choice for 12th and I said that to the boys. We’re sitting 10th, so as long as we can remain in 10th or higher then I’ll take it.
“We’ve been a victim of our own success recently and that’s probably why the fans are booing at the end there, because they’re expecting us just to be in the top six. I think it’s got to be put into perspective.
“I don’t think we deserved to lose the game – but we did.”
Livingston enjoyed greater possession and more shots on goal than St Mirren, whose clinching strike came at the end of a lightning counter-attack.
The home side were attacking at a corner when the Buddies broke at speed. Connor Ronan fed the supporting Marcus Fraser, who played in Erhahon. His shot across goal crept in at the far post, with the finger of blame pointed at goalkeeper Max Stryjek.
Martindale added: “It’s a bog-standard save. He’s got to save it.”
St Mirren number one Jak Alnwick brilliantly tipped a James Penrice effort wide but largely it was the players in front of him who kept Livingston at bay.
Ayo Obileye had a volley cleared off the line in the first half, whilst Joe Shaughnessy deflected an Odin Bailey drive up and over the bar after the break.
At the other end, Matt Millar’s header was saved by Stryjek and Conor McCarthy volleyed over the bar, but the visitors only needed the one strike to seal all three points.
Manager Jim Goodwin said: “It was a great goal as we defended the set-play very well with Connor Ronan driving us up the pitch and he made the correct decision to play in Ethan.
“It wasn’t the cleanest strike and Stryjek will probably be disappointed that the ball went underneath his arms.
“But we are always telling the players to hit the target and you never know what can happen, and on this occasion we got the break.”