Livi ended their three week hiatus as they were held to a goalless draw by second bottom Falkirk to remain fourth in the Championship table on a cold night at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
The Lions hadn’t played since their 3-1 defeat to St Mirren on 28 November and their ring rust was clear, especially in the first half, as they failed to score at home for the second league match in succession.
Livi boss David Hopkin made four changes to the side that had started the defeat in Paisley as Raffaele De Vita, James Penrice, Dylan Mackin and new signing Steven Boyd came in for Jackson Longridge, Nicky Cadden, Keaghan Jacobs and Dale Carrick.
It proved to be a rather turgid affair with nine yellow cards shown by ref Gavin Duncan and the first of those arrived inside three minutes as Falkirk’s Mark Kerr found his way into the book for hauling back Scott Pittman as he looked to mount a counter attack. Livi won their first corner on seven minutes when De Vita released Mackin down the channel. Josh Mullin took it but Alan Lithgow’s header flew wide of target.
De Vita then got involved in a bit of handbags with Bairns captain Aaron Muirhead but both men got away with just a talking to from the referee before Kerr was perhaps fortunate to escape a second yellow card on 16 minutes for another late challenge on Pittman.
The visitors had their first sight of goal on 20 minutes as Louis Longridge found himself in behind but his shot from a tight angle was parried well by Neil Alexander before the Livi defence cleared. The Lions almost took a fortuitous lead a minute later as a long clearance bounced over Bairns keeper Robbie Mutch but he managed to scamper back and gather the ball before it trundled into the net.
Livi’s first booking arrived on 23 minutes as De Vita found himself carded after a series of niggly fouls before Falkirk came close again two minutes later as Declan Gallagher’s clearing header fell invitingly for Lee Miller but he smashed his effort high over the bar. Miller came even closer shortly after as a low ball across goal found him bursting into the box but he whipped his effort narrowly over the bar. The game’s third booking arrived on 33 minutes, Peter Grant shown yellow for a foul on Mullin.
The Lions had another half chance a minute later as Mackin and Boyd linked up well but the on-loan Hamilton man rushed his effort from long range and it flew harmlessly over the bar. Livi came within a whisker of breaking the deadlock on 39 minutes as De Vita pounced on a mistake to release Mackin and he teed up Penrice who sent a fizzing drive agonisingly wide of the post to ensure the sides went in at the break level.
Half-time: Livingston 0-0 Falkirk
The first chance of the second half went the way of the visitors as they broke quickly and Longridge tried his luck but Alexander got a strong hand behind it to clear the danger. Livi then pushed forward and, after Boyd had seen a cross cleared, Mackin fired in a low shot that was turned wide for a corner which came to nothing.
Livi made their first change on 53 minutes as Mackin made his way off to be replaced by Nikolay Todorov who found himself in the book within three minutes as the referee harshly adjudged him to have been guilty of simulation after going down in the box, despite having jumped straight back up to continue chasing the ball.
The Lions forced another chance on 58 minutes as De Vita drove down the left before cutting inside and firing in a strike that flew wide. Boyd then came close two minutes later as he carried the ball across the box before curling an effort just over. Yellow card number five arrived shortly after as Falkirk’s Tom Taiwo brought down Shaun Byrne in the middle of the park.
The home side came within inches of taking the lead on 64 minutes as Mullin, Todorov and De Vita all went close before Penrice saw his header bounce back off the crossbar before the referee’s busy night continued with Alan Lithgow yellow carded for a hip check as Falkirk looked to break. Livi made their second change on 75 minutes as De Vita was replaced by Scott Robinson who made a belated home debut.
The game’s seventh booking came ten minutes from time as Halkett committed a foul 40 yards out, with Bairns sub Myles Hippolyte sending the resulting free kick high into the north stand before Livi’s final change saw Nicky Cadden replace Penrice.
Having been centre of attention for much of the match, it was only right that the referee was at the heart of the final moments of note in the match, first cautioning Cadden two minutes from time for a trip on Rory Loy and then showing Falkirk’s James Craigen a yellow card for simulation in injury time as the match ended in an uninspiring goalless draw.
Full-time: Livingston 0-0 Falkirk
Livingston: Alexander, Gallagher, Halkett, Lithgow, Mullin, Byrne, Penrice (Cadden 82), Pittman, De Vita (Robinson 75), Boyd, Mackin (Todorov 53)
Subs not used: Maley, Longridge, Jacobs, Carrick
Falkirk: Mutch, McGhee, Muirhead, Grant, Taiwo (Craigen 80), Kerr, Sibbald (Loy 71), Longridge, Tumilty, Miller (Hippolyte 68), Gallacher
Subs not used: Thomson, Kidd, Austin, Harris
Referee: Gavin Duncan
Match Report: Andy Crawford
Photos: Rae Irvine