Livi travelled to the Excelsior Stadium to take on fellow League One side Airdrie, who had won their last 5 games, with the Lions losing on their last 2 outings.
It was the visitors who had the first chance of the match after a free kick was awarded to Livi on the edge of the box. Mikey Miller fancied his chances, having scored a few weeks ago from a similar position. The midfielder stepped up but fired well over the bar.
From a poor free kick to a crunching tackle a few moments later, Miller challenged for the ball and came off worst. The referee played on, but play was stopped after the Lions number 2 indicated that he had been unable to shake off the knock. This event led to a forced change for boss David Hopkin, with Miller being replaced by Nicky Cadden. Clearly, this wasn’t a like-for-like substitution, so a formation change in midfield was needed for the Lions.
Things went from bad to worse for Livingston. A cross on the 18th minute by Airdrie’s MacDonald found Andy Ryan who saw his touch deflected into the net by the outstretched leg of Jackson Longridge. It was Ryan’s goal, but the deflection left Kelly with no chance in the Livi net. Andy Ryan was still the only player to score for Airdrie against the Lions this season, having scored twice in the previous meeting.
Airdrie looked good on the ball, and were in control at this stage, however the next chance came Livi’s way. After a well worked move, Danny Mullen received the ball with his back to goal. He controlled the ball on his thigh and turned but saw his first time volley fly just past the post. The visitors were unlucky not to be level.
A chance for Airdrie came on the 24th minute, but Jack Leitch’s shot went wide of the post. Cadden came close for Livi a minute later, but his effort became a routine save for Airdrie keeper Rohan Ferguson. Livi kept coming at Airdrie and, as the half progressed, the men in black were beginning to take control of the match.
Their passing and movement would pay off as Buchanan found Cadden with a brilliant through ball. The winger smashed the ball from a tight angle past Ferguson to bring the sides level again at 1-1.
Just 3 minutes later, another superb move from the visitors saw Buchanan nearly through on goal, but an outstretched leg from Daniel Boateng caught the Livi striker who fell to the ground. The cynical foul saw Boateng booked, and Danny Mullen joined him in the referee’s notebook for an altercation with the defender after the challenge. Cadden took the free kick but hit it straight at the keeper. The last chance of the first half fell to the hosts.
A dangerous corner was swung in and the ball fell to Joseph Gorman. He connected sweetly with the ball, only to find it smash against the underside of the bar. A very tight first half ended all square, which on balance seemed an accurate reflection of the play.
HT: Airdrie 1-1 Livingston
The second half was a very calamitous affair, with mistakes all over the place. Miskicks, misplaced passes, ricochets and rebounds were the order of the day. It was a proper cup tie, with both teams keen to avoid a replay, and excitement levels high as a result.
Livi continued to control the game, with Shaun Byrne playing well and Scott Pittman being as consistent as ever. However, the first chance of the second half fell to Airdrie. Halkett’s back pass to Kelly’s weaker left foot saw him mishit his clearance, but the on-loan Rangers keeper made up for it with a fine save from Iain Russell’s resultant effort. Up the other end, another mistake at the back from the home side let Livi in on goal. Boateng’s back pass was short, which nearly allowed a one-on-one for Mullen, but unfortunately for the striker, keeper Ferguson’s clearance hit off him and trickled agonisingly wide of the post.
Another chance for the Lions came a short time later, this time from their own good play. Scott Pittman was urged to shoot by the travelling support, and his magnificent dipping volley struck the top of the bar from around 30 yards out. Livi were really getting into full swing now, and began to look like the team that started the season so well.
The pressure was building on the Diamonds’ rear-guard and, in the 62nd minute, after some lovely passing football, Sean Crighton found himself on the right wing. The centre half produced a fantastic cross, and Danny Mullen found the back of the net with an extraordinary, acrobatic overhead kick to give Livi a 2-1 lead. The spectacular effort sent the healthy travelling support into raptures, recognising that it was a goal worthy of winning any match.
Livi’s domination continued and Airdrie never really looked like getting back into the match. The visitors kept growing in confidence as the game went on, looking increasingly comfortable and likely to increase their lead. But there were to be no more goals, and Livingston ran out 2-1 winners in what was a very entertaining game of football.
So The Lions progress to Monday’s fourth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup draw, with the potential for a glamour tie.
FT: Airdrie 1-2 Livingston
Airdrie: Ferguson, McIntosh, Boateng, Gorman, MacDonald, Conroy, Brown, Stewart (Scullion 67), Ryan, Leitch, Russell (Schmidt 75)
Subs not used: Daly, Leighton, Kinvig, McLaughlin, Cairns
Goals: Ryan (18)
Livingston: Kelly, Miller (Cadden 10), Longridge, Lithgow, Crighton, Byrne, Mullin, Pittman, Buchanan (De Vita 77), Mullen, Halkett
Subs not used: Neill, Currie, Knox, Carrick, Maley
Goals: Cadden (30), Mullen (62)
Referee: Barry Cook
Match report: Calum Brown