RAY Stewart was sacked as Livingston manager last night as the club directors clearly showed their ambition is to have their team playing in the top flight sooner rather than later.

General manager Jim Leishman will take charge of team affairs until a new coach is appointed, but an announcement on the new management team is expected within the next few days.

Club chairman Dominic Keane has a strong Celtic connection from his time as a director of the Parkhead club and with that in mind, Murdo MacLeod as man-ager with Paul McStay as his assistant could be a possibility, and some have even been suggesting Tommy Burns as a possibility as the new man in charge.

The sacking of Stewart came in the wake of a defeat against Morton which will make it difficult for Livingston to make the promotion play-off places, something which Keane had hoped would be within their grasp by now.

Stewart guided his side to promotion from the second division but consolidating their position in the first division this time round proved not to be good enough to save him from the axe.

Even Stewart accepted his sacking was because their promotion hopes were hanging by a thread and that the men behind Livingston felt they should be playing in the premier league.

Stewart said his sacking, which came after a loss to Falkirk, a draw with Raith, and defeat at Cappielow was one of the worst moments of his football career.

The ex-West Ham player was appointed to the post two years ago by Keane, succeeding Jim Leishman. During his time in charge the Almondvale outfit lost only 11 times in 66 matches, winning the second division title last season and took some notable scalps in cup competitions like Dunfermline and Aberdeen.

Despite his despondency Stewart insisted he would leave with his head held high and hoped to return to management soon.

''This is the lowest I have felt,'' said Stewart. ''I have always said that in this game you are only two defeats away from the sack, but I am disappointed it has happened. I have won promotion, but obviously that is not good enough. Maybe that shows the club's ambitions.

''There are a good bunch of lads at the club, but I feel that one or two of them maybe let me down. I always suspected that this might happen. I had heard all the speculation before, but I will leave with my head held high.''

Stewart's only other managerial experience was as assistant to Kevin Drinkell at Stirling Albion, and last night Drinkell said he felt his friend had been sacked because ''his face didn't fit'' at the club.

On a separate matter, Marc Millar has been suspended for alleged gross misconduct following an incident during the Morton match where he is believed to have gestured to Livingston supporters.