Livi slipped to sixth place in the Championship – albeit only on goal difference – as Dundee United ran out emphatic winners at Tannadice to keep pace with St Mirren at the top of the table.
The Lions made their first trip to Tannadice in 11 years looking for a first league win in three games but a double from Paul McMullan either side of Scott McDonald’s strike sealed the points for Csaba Lazslo’s side as Gary Maley’s penalty save proved little consolation.
Boss David Hopkin made three changes to his Livi side from the goalless draw with Falkirk four days earlier as Maley, Jackson Longridge and Nikolay Todorov came in for Neil Alexander, Raffaele De Vita and Dylan Mackin.
The previous meeting of the two sides had seen arguably Livi’s finest performance of the season in a 2-0 win at the Tony Macaroni Arena but United came into the match on a six game unbeaten run in the Championship since the departure of former manager Ray Mackinnon.
The match was very slow to get going as both sides struggled to retain possession for any sustained period with the first effort of any note arriving on eight minutes when Jackson Longridge tried his luck with a volley from 30 yards but his effort dipped just wide of Harry Lewis’ left hand post.
Longridge’s cross was then turned wide by Todorov six minutes later but the flag was up for offside anyway. Todorov had another chance three minutes later when he rose to meet a corner from Josh Mullin but he sent his volley high over the bar. Livi came close again on 20 minutes when a long ball was headed down for Steven Boyd and he took a good touch before firing in a low drive that was well held by Lewis.
Livi looked certain to take the lead soon after when Mullin’s cross was perfect for Alan Lithgow but Paul McMullan scrambled back to head clear. The home side made the most of that let off as they took the lead a minute later with a goal that owed much to poor defensive play from the Lions.
After miscommunication between Declan Gallagher and Maley saw the former clear for a corner, the Lions defence stood off McMullan, allowing him to drive into the box and fire in a low shot that seemed to go in through Maley’s legs. Livi tried to mount a response and came close when a free kick from Mullin was met by Craig Halkett but his glancing header flew wide.
United claimed for a penalty on 32 minutes when Billy King’s shot was blocked by Halkett – the United players said it was with his hand but the referee was uninterested and awarded a throw in. From that throw, McMullan collected the ball and whipped an effort across goal and just wide. The home side’s pressure was rewarded four minutes later as they doubled their lead when King was released down the left and his low cross was turned into an empty net by McDonald.
The home side were forced into a change just before the break as Fraser Fyvie picked up an injury making a tackle and had to be carried off to be replaced by Matty Smith. The final chances of the half went Livi’s way as Halkett fired a free kick into the wall before Mullin’s corner was met by an unmarked Longridge but he could only glance his header wide as United went in at the break in control.
Half-time: Dundee United 2-0 Livingston
The home side continued to dominate proceedings after the interval and Scott Fraser drove into the Livi box on 48 minutes before firing in a low strike that was turned wide by Maley. The stand in Livi keeper made a superb stop two minutes later, denying McMullan from point blank range after he had been picked out by McDonald.
Livi countered after that save and Penrice’s low ball across goal was laid off Todorov at the edge of the box but his low shot was straight at Lewis before Livi made their first change on 54 minutes as Scott Robinson replaced Mullin.
United were handed the chance to kill the game off once and for all a minute later as they were awarded a penalty when Maley took down McDonald as he attempted to round the Livi keeper. Maley made amends, though, springing to his right to make a terrific two handed save and divert the ball wide for a corner.
More pressure from the home side saw Tam Scobbie charge out of defence and set up McDonald but he took too many touches and lost the chance before Sam Stanton blazed high over the bar. Livi’s second change came a minute later as Keaghan Jacobs replaced Longridge before Scott Fraser picked up the game’s first yellow card for a foul on Boyd before the Livi man followed suit soon after for a foul on Stanton.
Livi made their final change on 74 minutes as De Vita replaced Todorov before they enjoyed a better spell, albeit without testing the United keeper. After Penrice picked up a yellow card for an apparent foul on Scobbie, United sealed the points when Smith set up McDonald and, after his shot was parried by Maley, McMullan was on hand to fire home the rebound.
The points now secure, United boss Csaba Laszlo made his final two changes, sending on Scott Allardice and Logan Chalmers for McMullan and Fraser. Gallagher picked up a yellow card in injury time for a needless foul as United ran out comfortable winners.
Full-time: Dundeed United 3-0 Livingston
Dundee Utd: Lewis, Scobbie, Durnan, Quinn, Robson, Stanton, Fyvie (Smith 43), McMullan (Allardice 89), Fraser (Chalmers 90), King, McDonald
Subs not used: Mehmet (GK), Flood, Dailly, Appére
Goals: McMullan (22 & 88), McDonald (37)
Livingston: Maley, Longridge (Jacobs 62), Lithgow, Halkett, Gallagher, Mullin (Robinson 53), Byrne, Pittman, Boyd, Todorov (De Vita 74), Penrice
Subs not used: Knox, Cadden, Mackin, Carrick
Referee: Andrew Dallas
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine