Livingston boss David Martindale heaped praise on Joel Nouble after the striker scored on his first start since November in his side’s 3-1 home demolition of Kilmarnock.
A sensational first-half display saw the hosts 3-0 up inside half an hour with Nouble’s smart opener followed by Bruce Anderson’s clinical finish inside the area.
Stephen Kelly’s side-footed volley capped off an impressive open 30 minutes in marvellous fashion as the ball brushed the underside of the bar on its way into the goal.
Martindale said Nouble’s contribution for his side was “absolutely huge.”
“I actually think they snuffed him out a bit better in the second half, hence why I tried to move him,” Martindale added.
“But I thought playing him a bit more central we probably allow him more one-v-ones in terms of the centre-half picking him up, so that was the gameplan.
“So, shuffled it slightly but I think you could see his match sharpness. For the first 45 minutes he looked like he hadn’t been away, he was incredible.
“He brings so much to the team and he brings you different ways to get the ball into the opponent’s box.”
When the question of potential European football was put to him, Martindale said: “There are nine games to the split, we’ve played Hearts, we’ve played Celtic away which are big games. So the next one is Rangers at home in terms of the top three and then we’re playing everybody that’s in and around us and so we’ve got to fancy ourselves.
“I feel now we’re at the business end of the season. I know we’ve still got to deal with the split when it comes, but for me, the league consists of 33 games and I deal with those 33 games in batches of 11. So we’re into our last batch of 11 and then we’ll see where we are on matchday 33.”
Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes watched his side respond well to recent criticism with a midweek 1-0 win at home to Dundee United.
But at Livingston they failed to win away from home, something they are yet to do this season, as Christian Doidge’s second-half strike failed to spark a comeback.
The Killie boss said: “I couldn’t be more pleased with the team on Wednesday night, I thought we were outstanding against Dundee United, I thought the level of individual performance was so good.
“But it can’t go from that to that today in the first half.
“And when we do play in the manner of which we do expect from them and we do play that for 45 minutes we actually win the second half.
“It wasn’t pretty but we actually got balls in the box, Doidgey got his goal and we scored another couple off that type of pressure and the game was far more how we envisioned it being.
“But 45 minutes doesn’t get the job done when you come to a place like Livingston where they’re going for Europe.”