A first half goal blitz saw Livi ease to victory over relegation-threatened Dumbarton and move eight points clear in the race for second spot in the Ladbrokes Championship.
Three goals in the space of eleven minutes from Lee Miller, Ryan Hardie and Raffaele De Vita sealed a comfortable win, though the margin of victory could have been far greater as the Lions dominated throughout.
Livi boss David Hopkin made four changes from the dramatic draw at Queen of the South the previous weekend as Craig Halkett and Alan Lithgow missed out through suspension while Keaghan Jacobs and Scott Robinson dropped to the bench. Jack McMillan, Nicky Cadden, Shaun Byrne and Hardie came in to the starting line up.
The Lions had their first sight of goal on seven minutes as Hardie and Miller combined to tee up Jackson Longridge but his low drive was comfortably saved by Scott Gallacher in the Sons’ goal. Longridge then tried his luck from further out two minutes later but, although he got more power behind this effort, it flew just over the bar.
Further pressure from Livi saw McMillan released down the right and he skipped past his man before firing a low shot wide. Six minutes later, the Lions went close again as Longridge picked out De Vita and he headed the ball down to Hardie. The on-loan striker then teed up Scott Pittman who fired an effort just over the bar from 20 yards.
After Livi couldn’t take advantage of a goalmouth scramble at a corner, the home side’s Aiden Wilson picked up the game’s first yellow card on 19 minutes for a heavy challenge on Byrne. The home side then had their first notable effort three minutes later as Dimitris Froxylias was given too much space and he let fly from 30 yards with an effort that fizzed narrowly over the bar.
That threat from the home side proved a rarity as Livi resumed their dominance, coming close again on 23 minutes when Cadden got away from Wilson and whipped in a cross that was met by Hardie but his header looped over the bar.
That sparked a fresh spell of intense pressure from the Lions that finally brought it’s reward on 33 minutes as the deadlock was broken when the ball fell to Miller in the box and, although Gallacher got both hands to his shot, he couldn’t keep it out and Livi were in front.
Within two minutes, it was 2-0 as Hardie produced a goal of the season contender as he latched on a through ball and, spotting Gallacher off his line, produced an imperious chip from fully 30 yards that was judged to absolute perfection, dropping just in time to nestle in the corner of the net.
Livi came close to a third on 41 minutes when Cadden fired in a stinging drive from the left that sailed just wide. They didn’t have long to wait as the third goal arrived on the stroke of half time when Cadden’s cross was flicked on by Miller to De Vita and he flicked the ball past Gallacher with his first touch before prodding the ball home from close range to send the Lions in at the break in total command.
Half-time: Dumbarton 0-3 Livingston
The home side made a half-time change as Mark Stewart replaced Froxylias but it had little impact as Livi picked up where they left off, appealing for a penalty when Hardie appeared to be pulled down by Craig Barr but the referee waved the appeals away. De Vita then tried his luck from 25 yards with an effort that took a wicked deflection off Barr and bounced inches wide.
Cadden then saw a header go wide from Declan Gallagher’s cross before he went off to be replaced by Josh Mullin as David Hopkin made his first change. A second change followed shortly after as Jordan Thompson came on for De Vita, who appeared to have suffered a head injury. Thompson was quickly involved as he was felled by Stuart Carswell who picked up a yellow card.
Livi should have grabbed a fourth goal on 65 minutes as Hardie showed superb skill to lose Barr and run clean through on Gallacher. He had Mullin and Thompson for company but chose to shoot himself and saw his effort saved by the Sons keeper’s legs.
Another big chance went begging a minute later as Mullin did well to charge down Gallacher’s clearance and the ball fell kindly to him but he could only fire his effort against the post from a narrow angle. The home side made their second change on 69 minutes as Calum Gallagher was replaced by Kevin Nisbet before Barr was shown a yellow card – as has become something of a tradition in this fixture recently – for a clumsy foul on Miller.
Livi made their final change on 72 minutes as Hardie was replaced by Steven Boyd before a bit of handbags between Gallagher and Dougie Hill saw both players booked. The home side then had a chance from a free kick but Tom Walsh’s strike was comfortably saved by Neil Alexander.
The home side were reduced to ten men on 80 minutes when Wilson was shown a second yellow card for hauling back Thompson as he looked to break down the left. Sons boss Stevie Aitken made his final change in response to the sending off as defender Grant Gallagher replaced Walsh. Boyd then picked up a needless yellow card for kicking the ball away after being flagged offside.
Thompson came close to a fourth on 85 minutes when his curling effort from 25 yards was brilliantly tipped over by Gallacher. Dumbarton then broke quickly from the corner and Kyle Hutton was played clean through but Alexander made a fine save to keep out his effort from the edge of the box.
The Lions played out the remaining minutes with ease as they extended their unbeaten run to 11 matches. News of Morton’s late equaliser against Dundee United provided further cause for celebration for the Livi fans as they added a further two points onto their cushion in the race for second spot and a bye through the first round of the Premiership play-offs.
Full-time: Dumbarton 0-3 Livingston
Dumbarton: Gallacher, Carswell, C.Gallagher (Nisbet 69), Walsh (G.Gallagher 82), Hutton, Hill, Froxylias (Stewart 45), Dick, Stirling, A.Wilson, Barr
Subs not used: McLaughlin, D.Wilson, Burt, Ewings
Livingston: Alexander, McMillan, Buchanan, Gallagher, Longridge, De Vita (Thompson 61), Byrne, Pittman, Cadden (Mullin 56), Hardie (Boyd 72), Miller
Subs not used: Maley, Robinson, Jacobs
Goals: Miller (34), Hardie (36), De Vita (45)
Referee: Barry Cook
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine