BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
DECLAN GALLAGHER insists Livingston’s remarkable home record is down to their steel – not their plastic.
The Lions have turned the Tony Macaroni Arena into a fortress this season, with only Celtic picking up more points on their own patch than Livi’s impressive tally of 20.
Yet Gallagher is acutely aware that some snipers will attribute that success to their much-maligned artificial surface but, with Kilmarnock and Hamilton also
He said: “There will be a lot of people saying ‘oh, it’s all down to the pitch’, but there are other
“You still need to go out there, perform and get the result. There are still two teams fighting for the points and it’s only a pitch.
“We have got those big results against sides like Rangers and Hibs and it is down to our work rate and how much we’ve wanted to make sure that no-one ever comes here and gets an easy ride.
“We play a pressing, physical, high-tempo game here and, when those elements click, we are a match for any team in this league.
“We knew before a ball was kicked that we needed to take a lot of points at home this season if we were going to be successful. Away matches at Premiership level, with a club as small as Livingston, will always be a struggle – but we can make this place a fortress. I think we’ve done that.”
Gallagher acknowledges that it will be a case of mind over matter as Livi seek to employ that same 100MPH intensity on Friday evening.
The visit of Hearts will be Livingston’s fifth game in the space of just 13 days, a staggering challenge for the club with the smallest wage bill in the top-flight and a shallow pool of players to call upon.
Gallagher said: “There’s no getting away from the fact it’s been a tough period. We have played five games in 13 days and, with us having such a small squad, it can be tough on the legs and it takes its toll.
“The gaffer [Gary Holt] tries to tweak the sessions the best he can, we’ve had the masseuse in all week and the physio and sports scientist are doing everything they can to keep us ready and fresh. It’s all hands on deck to keep our levels high and we are well looked after.
“There comes a point when it is about mental toughness. You push through the barriers and get through the games. The gaffer talks a lot about how these spells are about your mindset.
“There will be aches and there will be pains but if you believe you can get through it, you will. “
As the fatigue sets in and the winter chill bites, Gallagher and his Livi teammates can at least look forward to some winter sun.
The club announced that they are jetting off for a training camp in Portugal in January, where they will face Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem.
Gallagher added: “A lot of the boys are really looking forward to that. Not many of us have been away for a winter training camp. It will be good to experience the climate, work hard in the sun and play against a really good standard of opposition.
“At the same point last year, we were playing away from home to Brechin and it was absolutely freezing! Now we are going over to Portugal. It’s another thing that shows how far the club has come.
“The main thing is we go into that break in as strong a position as possible. If we could get a result against Hearts and potentially push into the top six again by the end of December, that would be incredible, but where we are right now is a great achievement.
“We would have bitten your hand off for 25 points at this stage of the season!”