Livi left Easter Road on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline for the third successive visit as a late rally fell just short on a bitterly cold night in Leith.
The Lions produced a gallant performance against their in-form hosts but were left to rue two missed chances right after half-time with the game goalless as Hibs made it 13 wins in 14 games.
Livi boss Mark Burchill made two changes to the side from last week’s defeat to Morton as Ross Millen and Myles Hippolyte came in for Gary Glen and Liam Buchanan and it was the Lions who forced the first effort of the match as a long throw from Hippolyte was flicked goalwards by Jordan White into the arms of Mark Oxley. Hibs broke straight up the other end and forced a corner which Livi dealt with well.
Hippolyte’s long throws were causing problems and, after one forced Livi’s first corner, Millen’s cross found Declan Gallagher at the back post but his header looped over. Livi then enjoyed a let-off as Martin Boyle’s low cross was only cleared as far as James Keatings but he scuffed his shot wide. Another Millen set piece was flicked on by Hippolyte to Gallagher but Oxley just beat White to his knockdown. Jackson Longridge then picked up the game’s first booking for a foul on David Gray.
Hibs had the game’s next opening as Kieran Gibbons just failed to clear a low ball in from Boyle and Liam Henderson’s strike from 20 yards flew over the bar. Up the other Oxley punched a Millen cross only as far as Hugo Faria but his ambitious effort flew high over the bar. Livi then survived a real scare as Jason Cummings broke clear and rounded Marc McCallum but with the goal at his mercy he could only shoot into the side netting.
Alan Stubbs’ side were enjoying a strong spell but were perhaps guilty of overplaying it as Keatings found McGinn who cut inside but then chose to square it to Boyle who shot wide. Livi then forced their best chance of the game as Longridge hit the byline and fizzed a low ball across which found Millen unmarked at the back post but his curling effort was deflected clear. Livi finished the half well as a Millen free kick was flicked on by Hippolyte but his header dropped just the wrong side of the bar before a free kick right on half time went straight into Oxley’s arms to ensure the sides went in at the break all square.
Half-time: Hibernian 0-0 Livingston
Livi made a bright start to the second half and forced a golden chance on 48 minutes when White held the ball up well before playing in Pittman but his shot was parried wide by Oxley at his near post. Then, a minute later came a strong penalty claim for the Lions as a corner was flicked goalwards and White appeared to be held back as he looked to get on the end of it. The Livi players screamed but ref Craig Thomson was unmoved. Livi really should have gone in front on 51 minutes as smart build-up play ended with Hippolyte dancing into space in the box but his low shot was straight at Oxley who blocked it with his legs.
That miss would prove costly as Hibs broke the deadlock within a minute as McGinn drove in from the left and played a sliderule pass through to Keatings, who slid a low effort through McCallum’s legs and into the net. The Hibees then made their first change as Dylan McGeouch replaced Boyle. The sub was straight into the action and saw a low shot deflected just wide. McCallum was called into action again on 62 minutes with a smart double-save as, first, he parried a low effort from McGinn before bouncing back up to push Cummings’ effort wide.
Cummings wasted an even better chance soon after as a cross found him unmarked at the near post but he could only head it wide. McCallum then produced a moment of brilliance to deny McGinn as the ex-St Mirren fan burst into the box and fired in a powerful effort which seemed certain to burst the net until the Livi stopper threw out a strong left hand to divert it wide. Livi then made their first change as Buchanan replaced Hippolyte but, before he could have any impact, Hibs doubled their lead as Keatings drove at the defence before firing an effort past McCallum from 20 yards.
Livi tried to mount a response and Gallagher headed a Millen corner just over soon after. Buchanan then tried his luck from distance with an effort that had Oxley scrambling but flew over the bar. Hibs nearly claimed a third in spectacular fashion as a cross from the right was met by an acrobatic overhead kick from McGinn which went just wide. Mark Burchill then made a double change as White and Faria were replaced by Spas Georgiev and Jordyn Sheerin. The changes paid almost immediate dividends as a ball over the top released Buchanan and he took it to the byline before cutting the ball back for Sheerin to angle a drive into the net.
Livi piled on the pressure in the closing stages but couldn’t find the equaliser and Hibs held on to move within two points of Rangers at the top of the table.
Full-time: Hibernian 2-1 Livingston
It doesn’t get any easier for the Lions as next up is a visit from Championship leaders Rangers this Saturday.
Hibernian: Oxley, Gray, Fontaine, Stevenson, McGregor, Henderson (Bartley 75), Fyvie, Boyle (McGeouch 54), McGinn, Keatings, Cummings (Feruz 83)
Subs not used: El Alagui, Forster, Eckersley, Reguero
Goals: Keatings (52 & 69)
Livingston: McCallum, Longridge, Gordon, Gallagher, Neill, Millen, Faria (Georgiev 83), Hippolyte (Buchanan 68), Gibbons, Pittman, White (Sheerin 83)
Subs not used: Jamieson, Glen
Goals: Sheerin (87)
Referee: Craig Thomson
Match Report: Andy Crawford