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Davie Martindale backs Lee Johnson to turn Hibs into a Premiership force

Livingston manager Davie Martindale secured a 2-1 win over Hibernian but still back their manager Lee Johnson to turn Hibs into a Premiership force (Jane Barlow/PA Images).
Livingston manager Davie Martindale secured a 2-1 win over Hibernian but still back their manager Lee Johnson to turn Hibs into a Premiership force (Jane Barlow/PA Images).

Livingston manager Davie Martindale has backed Lee Johnson to turn Hibernian into a Premiership force despite watching his team beat the Easter Road side for a fourth successive time.

Joel Nouble and Ayo Obileye goals either side of a Nohan Kenneh equaliser handed Livingston their second league victory of the season.

The home side were good value for the win as they continued their rich vein of form over Hibs dating back to last December.

Former Sunderland boss Johnson only took over the Hibs reins during the summer but Martindale believes he can transform the club’s fortunes after they finished eighth last season.

Martindale said: “That’s a great stat (four straight wins over Hibs) for Livi, a club of our size and it just goes to show that possession doesn’t win you games of football.

“It’s shots on target and the ball lying in the back of the net.

“That’s down to the players and the staff here – although that sets it up nicely for going to Easter Road.

“But I think you’ll see a different Hibs, they are in a transitional phase and Lee will bring more players in.

“They will get used to his way of playing and I think they will be up there at the end of the day because he’s a very good manager and Hibs have the finances to make sure they are up there at the top end of the league.

“We have to squeeze every ounce of aggression, hard work and talent out of everyone because we don’t have the luxury of buying a game-changer.

“We need to have 16 game-changers in our squad.”

Hibs boss Johnson was not happy with his players’ output on Saturday and claimed too many of them got ‘burned’ at the Tony Macaroni Arena.

Johnson also defended his decision to throw on rookie defender Kyle McClelland for Paul Hanlon just before Obileye headed home the winner in the 86th minute.

Hanlon, who underwent a knee operation earlier this summer, ran out of steam after making his first appearance of the season.

Johnson added: “We had to take Hanlon off. He’s only had two 45 minutes and six sessions.

“He was cramping up and had a risk of his calf splitting off.

“Something had to be done. If you look at the goal, he’s (Obileye) got in between Christian Doidge and Nohan Kenneh. Rocky Bushiri would have started but he wasn’t fit.”