Today represented a big opportunity for Ryan Hardie. The 21-year-old joined Livingston on-loan at the beginning of the season, but injury has frustratingly kept him out of action.
Now fully recovered, he made a late appearance in the midweek defeat to Kilmarnock.
Coming through the latter stages of that fixture was obviously proof enough that Hardie was ready for his first start of the season. The 6 ft 2′ striker was included alongside Dolly Menga in a Livingston front two against St Mirren, this afternoon.
Livi struggled early on and trailed at the break, through a strike from Alfie Jones.
However, Gary Holt’s half-time team talk inspired the hosts to greater things in the second period. Scott Pittman drew the sides level, before Hardie’s big moment came in the 64th minute.
After Pittman had an effort blocked, the Rangers’ loanee was sharp on the follow up, beating the Saints defenders to the loose ball before firing into the roof of the net.
The goal proved to be the decisive one for his adopted side. With Hardie substituted, Craig Sibbald then netted a third to calm any nerves in the dying stages.
This represents a landmark moment for Hardie, after a frustrating early phase of the season. With no other out and out goalscorers at Livi, if he can stay fit, he has an opportunity to become their man man for the rest of the campaign.
His efforts today won’t have gone unnoticed at Ibrox. This is is fifth loan spell away from the club, and he will be looking to show he’s ready to return.
Yet, it is sustained fitness and consistency that will be ultimately required to force his way back into the Rangers fold.