Livingston boss Gary Holt reckons clean sheet king Liam Kelly is a Scotland stopper of the future

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BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport

LIVINGSTON boss Gary Holt reckons Liam Kelly is a Scotland goalkeeper in the making.

The 22-year-old, who joined the Lions from Rangers during the summer, has been a revelation between the sticks, with his shut-out against the Gers last Sunday taking his tally of clean sheets to five in his last seven outings.

That triumph came just a week after Kelly saved a penalty from Hearts’ Steven Naismith to ensure Holt’s men escaped Tynecastle with a hard-fought 0-0 draw.

In his first season as a Premiership number one, the Scotland under-21 cap has been pivotal to Livi’s shock surge to third spot in the Premiership and his stock is rising.

Kelly’s fine showing prompted his former Rangers teammate – and briefly boss at Livingston – Kenny Miller to suggest he is destined for full international honours during an appearance on BBC Sportsound this week. It is a prediction Holt fully endorses.

Holt, who succeeded Miller in the Almondvale hot seat, lauded: “Can Liam play at that level? Yes, I think he can.

“Teams are now taking an interest in our players – bigger clubs and international sides – because they are producing at this level. There was always that question of ‘can they cut it at this level?’ Well, we are seven games in and they are doing alright!

“Liam wants to learn, wants to improve and he pushes his teammates around him to be better. While he is here, we will benefit from those qualities.

“He left a very big club because he wanted to play regular football and he should be commended for that. Not a lot of boys do that, they hang on for dear life at a club like Rangers thinking the chance will come – then get shown the door.

“But Liam believes in his ability and knows he is good enough to play every week. For such a young man, he has tremendous confidence and he is justifying that by putting in performances week-in, week-out.”

Nevertheless, Holt is keen to spread the plaudits, insisting Livingston’s remarkable defensive record is a team effort – starting with tenacious attacking duo Scott Robinson and last week’s match-winner against Rangers, Dolly Menga.

He continued: “The backline and goalkeeper get a lot of plaudits but I think you need to take your hat off to the team as a collective. Dolly and Scott put in a shift to press and harry, and that goes for Stevie [Lawless], Ricki [Lamie] and our midfield three.

“The defenders would be the first to say that those boys make life a bit easier for them. There are no airs and graces, no-one in that squad is saying ‘I’m too good to be putting in that work, that’s not my position’.

“They all buy into it and we are reaping the benefits of that.”

The latest outfit who will attempt to breach Livi’s iron curtain is Motherwell, who find themselves struggling to hit the heights of last season as they toil in 10th place, with just one league win to their name this term.

Nevertheless, Holt will be taking nothing for granted as the in-form Lions head to Fir Park.

He added: “We can’t afford to turn up and say ‘we beat Rangers last week, so we’re going to win this game’. You don’t get anything in this league unless you earn the right.

“It’s going to be a battle and, first and foremost, we need to stand up to that like we have in our past seven games. If we do that, then I believe we will create chances because we have good players.”

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