Livi suffered their first defeat in 12 matches as Dunfermline cemented their position as the Lions bogey team with a narrow win at a rain-soaked East End Park.
Lee Ashcroft’s early strike proved enough to give Allan Johnston’s side the three points, although Livi were left furious after appearing to be denied a penalty in injury time.
David Hopkin made four changes from the 3-0 win at Dumbarton three days earlier as Craig Halkett and Alan Lithgow returned from suspension to come in alongside Keaghan Jacobs and Scott Robinson. Gregor Buchanan, Jack McMillan, Raffaele De Vita and Lee Miller all dropped to the bench where they were joined by new loan signing Adam Frizzell.
Livi made a bright start and had the first effort of the match inside two minutes when Jackson Longridge tried his luck from the edge of the box but he didn’t get the connection right and his effort looped over the bar. It was the home side, though, who made the all-important breakthrough on 11 minutes when a cross from the right glanced off Halkett and Ashcroft was on hand to fire home a smart, first-time finish at the back post.
The Lions came close to equalising almost immediately when a short corner was laid back for Scott Pittman and his low shot was flicked goalwards by Ryan Hardie but Lee Robinson made a fine reaction save. Nicky Cadden then tried his luck with a free kick from the right but his low effort was comfortable for Robinson. Tom Beadling then picked up the game’s first yellow card for a foul on Halkett.
Dunfermline came close to a second on 23 minutes when Kallum Higginbotham passed up a shooting chance to dribble to the byline and, when his cross was cleared, Callum Morris fired just wide from long range. Livi had another chance six minutes later when Jacobs’ shot was cleared fr a throw that eventually found its way to Cadden but he shot wide from the edge of the box when it might have been a better option to play in Longridge.
The Lions finished the first half strongly and came close again on 40 minutes when Hardie got in behind the Pars defence but saw his angled drive saved by Robinson before the Pars keeper came to his side’s rescue again two minutes later, brilliantly tipping Longridge’s effort wide. Longridge saw another effort saved as he flicked a Lithgow throw in straight at the keeper.
It was the hosts who had the last chance of the half, though, as Scott Pittman was harshly adjudged to have fouled Nicky Clark, picking up a yellow card in the process. James Craigen curled the resulting free kick over the bar as the Pars took their narrow lead into the interval.
Half-time: Dunfermline Athletic 1-0 Livingston
Livi made a similarly bright start to the second half as they had in the first and Lithgow got on the end of Cadden’s free kick from the right on 48 minutes but sent his header straight at Robinson. A misplaced pass in midfield then set Livi off on the counter attack and Scott Robinson released Cadden but his cross was just too far in front of Hardie.
Cadden then slipped and allowed Ryan Williamson to race clear down the right and his cross was met by Clark who fired wide. Fraser Aird then shot straight at Alexander from the edge of the box before Livi countered and Robinson headed Cadden’s cross wide. There was a bit of a let-off for Livi shortly after as the referee failed to play advantage with the Pars set to run in on goal before David Hopkin made his first change as Frizzell came on for his Livi debut in place of Cadden.
Frizzell was quickly involved as his 58th-minute corner fell to Hardie in the box but his backheeled effort was blocked. Scott Robinson then went down in the box but was penalised for handball instead. Declan McManus picked up a yellow card for a late tackle on Jacobs before Livi’s second change saw Miller come on for Robinson.
The Lions came agonisingly close to drawing level on 67 minutes when Longridge’s deep cross was headed back across goal by Miller and Pittman looked all set to tap home until Lewis Martin produced a superb last ditch clearance. The Pars then broke quickly but were unable to test Alexander and Livi were able to win a throw-in to ease the pressure.
Dunfermline made their first change on 71 minutes as Aird was replaced by Nat Wedderburn before Livi made their final switch a minute later, sending on Jordan Thompson for Pittman. The Pars then came close to sealing the points on 77 minutes when McManus got in behind but his toe-poked effort was straight at Alexander. The Livi keeper then made a stunning point blank save to deny Clark as the home side looked to put the match to bed.
Livi were still doing most of the pressing and a well worked corner routine on 80 minutes ended with Frizzell teeing up Thompson to shoot just over from long range. A second Pars change a minute later saw McManus replaced by Andy Ryan before Hardie did well to get the ball under control but saw his shot charged down. Jacobs picked up a yellow card for a foul on Ryan on 85 minutes and, from the resulting free kick, Beadling saw his header cannon back off the post.
Then came the moment of huge controversy in added time as Hardie was sent clear and appeared to be brought down by at least one of the retreating Pars defenders as he prepared to shoot but ref Stephen Finnie, who was several yards behind play, waved the appeals away, leaving David Hopkin furious as his side suffered a first Championship defeat since early January.
Full-time: Dunfermline Athletic 1-0 Livingston
Dunfermline: Robinson, Williamson, Martin, Morris, Ashcroft, Craigen, Beadling, Aird (Wedderburn 71), Higginbotham, McManus (Ryan 80), Clark
Subs not used: Gill, Shiels, Duthie, Armstrong, Talbot
Goals: Ashcroft (11)
Livingston: Alexander, Lithgow, Halkett, Gallagher, Longridge, Jacobs, Byrne, Pittman (Thompson 72), Robinson (Miller 65), Cadden (Frizzell 57), Hardie
Subs not used: Maley, De Vita, McMillan, Buchanan
Referee: Stephen Finnie
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine