Top-flight football returns to West Lothian this weekend as Livi welcome Kilmarnock to the Tony Macaroni Arena for the first competitive meeting of the two sides since 2006.
Twelve years after bidding farewell to the SPL with a 1-0 defeat to Motherwell in their last home match on 3 May 2006, the Lions entertain Killie, who recovered from failing to win in their opening eight league games of last season to finish an impressive fifth after Lee McCulloch had been replaced by former West Bromwich Albion and Reading boss Steve Clarke.
After delays in its implementation forced Livi to play their home Betfred Cup matches in Linlithgow, the Tony Macaroni Arena’s new artificial surface will finally make its long-awaited debut, adding to the intrigue around the first Premiership match at the ground in over a decade, so let’s look ahead to tomorrow’s landmark occasion.
How have Killie done so far this season?
Killie also kicked off the new campaign in the Betfred Cup, where they were drawn against Championship winners St Mirren, Lowland League side Spartans, League One side Dumbarton and League Two outfit Queen’s Park.
They opened the season with an all-Premiership clash at home to St Mirren which ended in a goalless draw, forcing a penalty shootout for an additional point. It was the Buddies who came out on top in the shootout, winning 3-2.
A trip to Dumbarton came next, where Killie were forced to come from behind twice before coming out on top. After Craig Barr’s opener for the Sons was cancelled out by Mikael Ndjoli, Bobby Barr restored Dumbarton’s lead but a hat-trick from Kris Boyd in the final quarter of the match sealed a 4-2 win for Killie. Non-league Spartans provided a stern test for Killie and it took until the 63rd minute for Lee Erwin to break the deadlock. Ndjoli then struck twice in the final ten minutes to secure a 3-0 victory.
That put qualification in Killie’s hands and they duly obliged with a 2-0 win over Queen’s Park at Rugby Park thanks to goals from Eamonn Brophy and a late Boyd penalty. Killie’s ten-point haul wasn’t enough to see them seeded in the last-16 and they will now host Rangers next Sunday for a a place in the quarter-finals.
After successfully navigating their Betfred Cup group, Killie made a winning start to the Premiership season, seeing off St Johnstone 2-0 at Rugby Park thanks to a Scott Boyd tap-in and a screamer from Ndjoli.
That strong start, coupled with the fact that Killie have lost just six out of 38 games since Steve Clarke took charge, serves to underline the challenge awaiting Kenny Miller’s side tomorrow afternoon.
Is there any team news ahead of the big game?
Ryan Hardie and Raffaele De Vita will once again miss out for the Lions but Callum Crane and Ricki Lamie are both back in contention after missing the 3-1 defeat to Celtic through suspension. Craig Sibbald is also set to miss out after limping out of the friendly against Gateshead on 24 July.
Killie have new signing Daniel Bachmann available for selection after he joined on a season-long loan from Premier League side Watford. Lee Erwin is unlikely to feature for Steve Clarke’s side as he looks set to move to Iranian side Tractor Sazi, managed by ex-Wales boss John Toshack.
What have the managers had to say about tomorrow’s match?
Lions boss Kenny Miller is excited at the return of top-flight football to West Lothian, saying: “It’s something that should give everyone at the club a huge boost and it’s a special occasion not only for the team and everyone associated with the club, but the town as well. It should give everyone a lift.”
“It was a great reward for them to get to play at Celtic Park and experience that occasion and playing that first home game in the Premiership is another reward.”
Kenny also spoke about the preparation that has taken place ahead of the match, adding: “As each game passes we’ll pick a squad, not just a starting line-up, that we feel will be able to get the best out of the game and be prepared for all the possibilities that we might have to deal with during the course of the 90 minutes.”
Kilmarnock boss Steve Clarke is expecting “one of (their) most difficult games of the season”, saying: “Livingston’s first game back in the Premiership, in front of their own crowd, on a new surface, they will want to start really well.
“They will gloss over their defeat at Celtic Park last week because they will expect most clubs to lose at Celtic Park this season, so they will be looking to get their season up and running this weekend.”
How have the two sides fared against each other over the years?
This is another ‘head-to-head’ record that doesn’t make for great reading if you’re a Livi fan.
The two sides first faced off in August 1998, Killie coming out on top 3-1 in a League Cup tie at Rugby Park and in the 18 meetings since, Livi have come out on top just three times, with 13 wins for Killie (including the last five meetings) and two draws. The Lions’ first win in the fixture was certainly a memorable one though, as they came from a goal down to claim a thumping 5-1 win at Rugby Park.
Few would have seen such a result coming when debutant Didier Santini turned a free kick into his own net inside five minutes but goals from David Bingham, a majestic chip over Gordon Marshall from the edge of the box, and Marvin Andrews turned the match around before half-time. David Fernandez, Davide Xausa and a Carlos Dario Aurelio penalty sealed the rout for Livi.
The Lions’ other two wins in the fixture both came in the 2004/05 season, and both were by a 3-1 scoreline. The first came at Rugby Park in Livi’s first match following the sacking of Allan Preston. Caretaker boss Alex Cleland oversaw a first win in seven games thanks to a double from Jim Hamilton and a long-range effort from Burton O’Brien.
Preston’s permanent successor Richard Gough masterminded the Lions’ first, and so far only, home win over Killie as they came from behind to end a nine-game winless run thanks to goals from Ferenc Horvath, David McNamee and a 17-year-old Robert Snodgrass.
What do the bookies make of Saturday’s match?
The Lions are slightly underdogs for their first home Premiership match, with Ladbrokes offering odds of 12/5 on a home win. Killie are 5/4 to make it two wins out of two with the draw available at 21/10.
If you fancy a repeat of the Lions’ only home win, 3-1 Livi is 33/1.
How much is it to get in?
The admission prices for all home Premiership matches are as follows:
- Adults – £24
- Concessions (Age 16-18/Students/Over 65)– £16
- Under 16 – £10
Tickets can be purchased from the main reception until 12noon on Saturday, with a cash gate also available at the turnstiles.
While our new Ticketmaster system is set up, season ticket holders should collect a paper ticket for this weekend’s match. These can be collected from stadium reception until 12noon on Saturday and from the ticket collection window at the south end of the main stand (next to turnstiles 1 and 2) from 12noon to 2:30pm.
Visiting supporters will be housed in the East Stand with a cash gate in operation for all supporters.
What if I can’t make it?
Fear not, we will have live text commentary on our Twitter feed @LiviFCOfficial from 3pm, while the match is being shown “as live” on BBC Alba at 6pm on Saturday. BBC Alba is available on Sky channel 141 (Scotland) or 169 (Rest of UK), Virgin channel 161 and Freeview channel 7 (Scotland only).