Livi produced their worst display of the season at the worst possible time as Alloa left West Lothian with all three points for the first time ever to close the gap at the bottom of the Ladbrokes Championship.
The teams came into the match on the back of contrasting cup fortunes – the Lions having won impressively at Peterhead while Alloa had been thumped 5-0 by Dumbarton – but it was the Wasps, under caretaker boss Paddy Connolly, who claimed a crucial win in the fight against relegation.
Mark Burchill named an unchanged side from the 3-1 win at Balmoor Stadium two weeks earlier and it was the Lions who started the brighter, Liam Buchanan wriggling free in the box to fire in an effort which flew over the top. Alloa offered their first threat twominutes later as ex-Lions hero Burton O’Brien flighted a free kick into the box and Dougie Hill headed back across goal but Livi keeper Marc McCallum gathered easily.
The visitors came close from another free kick, this time a direct effort on goal from Iain Flannigan which McCallum gathered at the second attempt. Livi passed up a golden chance to break the deadlock on 15 minutes when a moment of madness in the Wasps rearguard saw the ball drop at the feet of Jordan White inside the six yard box but he had to react quickly and could only toe his effort over the bar.
Alloa came close to the opener after half an hour when Flannigan whipped in a corner which was met by Jason Marr whose header was brilliantly saved by McCallum, though referee Brian Colvin gave a goal kick. Livi then failed to make the most of a goalmouth scramble as Marr, Robbie Crawford and Colin Hamilton all threw themselves in front of efforts as the Lions pressed. Hamilton and Hill were in the right place soon after to prevent Buchanan getting a shot away after he’d been fed by Hugo Faria.
A final chance of the half fell Livi’s way as Scott Pittman took advantage of a slip from Graeme Holmes to get a shot away but it flew over to ensure the sides went in at the break all square.
Half-time: Livingston 0-0 Alloa Athletic
Livi made a half-time substitution as Myles Hippolyte replaced Kieran Gibbons and started strongly without threatening the Alloa goal too much. The half’s first chance did go Livi’s way though as Ben Gordon met a Jackson Longridge corner but could only head wide. Livi then screamed for a penalty as White appeared to be clipped by Marr but the ref gave nothing.Livi looked to turn the screw and Declan Gallagher burst down the left but saw his through ball towards Faria brilliantly intercepted by Declan McManus. Livi were to be punished soon after in desperate circumstances as Gordon didn’t connect with his attempted pass back, allowing Crawford to run clear and slot home under McCallum.
The Lions were struggling to mount a response but came within a whisker of drawing level when Hippolyte curled a free kick inches wide from just outside the box. Alloa then almost put the game to bed as Crawford turned provider for Michael Duffy but McCallum produced a terrific save to deny him. Resolute defending from the Wasps was restricting the Lions to long-range efforts with Hippolyte sending an effort over the top.
Livi passed up another gilt-edged chance to draw level on 83 minutes as White burst through on goal but opted to cut the ball back instead of shooting which allowed Hamilton to clear for the Wasps. The visitors then came within millimetres of a second as McCallum came out to claim a loose ball but missed it and had to scramble back to claw McManus’ effort off the line with the ball very close to crossing it.
After a brief delay while the linesman received treatment for an injury, the referee blew for full time to condemn Livi to a miserable defeat that left Mark Burchill’s hopes of an unbeaten December in tatters.
Full-time: Livingston 0-1 Alloa Athletic
The big games are coming thick and fast for the Lions as the festive season draws nearer. Next up is a home match against a Dumbarton side who will travel to West Lothian on the back of three straight wins in all competitions. Mark Burchill and the boys, though, will be determined to make amends for both this result and the defeat they suffered at the Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium earlier this season.
Livingston: McCallum, Neill, Gordon, Gallagher, Glen, Gibbons (Hippolyte 45), Pittman, Faria (Sheerin 73), Longridge, Buchanan, White
Subs not used: Jamieson, Millen, Georgiev, Currie
Alloa Athletic: McNeil, Doyle, Marr, Hill, Hamilton, O’Brien, Flannigan, McManus (McAusland 90), Holmes (Williams 63), Crawford, Duffy
Subs not used: Reintam, Ferns, Hetherington, Crawford, Hardie
Goals: Crawford (64)
Referee: Brian Colvin
Match report: Andy Crawford