Livi lost out to East Fife once again, in a one-sided match that the home side dominated and should have won convincingly.
But a combination of the woodwork, inspired goalkeeping and desperate defending by the Fifers saw the visitors score with their only meaningful effort. It was a smash-and-grab victory for the men from Methil that left the home supporters scratching their heads, wondering how their own team failed to convert their superiority into three points.
Following Tuesday night’s impressive win against Albion Rovers, The Lions were hopeful of continuing their seven match unbeaten run, but the hosts knew that victory against opponents East Fife would not be an easy task. The visitors had already taken six points off Livi this season, and were successful in knocking them out of the Scottish Cup in the Fifth Round.
The hosts started fantastically, and could have been in front inside the first few seconds. Danny Mullen squared the ball to Scott Pittman, but the midfielder’s effort smashed off the underside of the crossbar before being cleared. It a sign of what was to come for The Lions. The bright start continued as a cross found Raffaele De Vita at the back post, but, from about 12 yards out, his well struck volley flew narrowly over the bar.
Another chance came immediately afterwards, this time with Josh Mullin on the scene. The winger had his first shot saved well by Hurst. The rebound fell to Mullin again, who curled the ball looking for the top corner but Hurst was there again to deny the Number 7. Livi could well have been three goals ahead by this stage and East Fife were very fortunate to still be in the game.
The opening few minutes had painted a picture of how the game was going to play out, with Livi on top all over the pitch. East Fife were happy to sit back and frustrate the home side, taking every opportunity to slow the match down and interrupt the play in an effort to frustrate their opponents. The visitors started to get into the game more, but they didn’t create any real chances with their limited possession.
The next big chance fell to The Lions again. Josh Mullin whipped in an excellent free kick into the box, which found Nikolay Todorov, but unfortunately the Bulgarian headed over from close range. A few moments later, there was another golden opportunity for the League One leaders but Mullin’s effort from close range went wide of the right hand post.
With the first half coming to an end, there was yet another great chance for the hosts to go in front. Todorov found himself through on goal and headed past the onrushing Hurst, only to find his certain goal superbly cleared off the line by Chris Kane who’d sprinted back to save his side. The sides went into the interval level, incredibly, and The Lions could not believe that they weren’t taking a commanding lead into the break.
HT: Livingston 0-0 East Fife
The hosts came back out for the second half looking to get the goal that they couldn’t find in the first. They had a chance to do so after 10 minutes of the new period. Raffa De Vita linked up very well with Mullen, and after a lovely one-two, the Italian fired a shot over the bar from the edge of the box.
The Fifers were beginning to frustrate The Lions and slowed the game down whenever possible. Referee Irvine was generous in allowing Hurst, in particular, maximising the time to take goal kicks. East Fife had their first attempt of the game shortly after, when Paterson’s free kick found Duggan unmarked but the striker couldn’t hit the target. But it was the home side that continued to carry the greater threat and they had another good opportunity when Josh Mullin was fouled on the edge of the box. He went on to take the free kick and drilled in a delightful ball low and hard that was just waiting for a touch, but the visitors managed to clear again.
It was beginning to look like it wasn’t to be Livi’s day as another great delivery from Mullin found Todorov, whose bullet header smashed off the underside of the bar. The rebound fell to Craig Halkett, but his effort was scrambled off the line by Hurst who was having an inspired afternoon.
With three subs in quick succession, Millar, Buchanan and Cadden replaced Byrne, Mullen and De Vita in a bid to get the 3 points. However, the hosts would pay for not putting the ball in the back of the net. East Fife were awarded a free kick on the left wing. Paterson whipped it in to the front post and Kelly made a good save, however Jason Kerr was quickest to seize on the loose ball and poke home for the visitors.
The Lions, and the home supporters, were stunned. Curiously, and to the ironic cheers of the Livi fans, Penrice was cautioned for wasting time deep in the final minute. The game ended 1-0 and it was a hard loss to take, with the performance and the number of chances Livi created enough to win several matches.
Livi will create far fewer goal scoring opportunities than they did this afternoon and win games comfortably. There could be no complaints about the performance or the attempts on goal but the outcome was so harsh on the league leaders. The gap at the top was reduced to seven points, and The Lions travel to Stranraer next weekend looking to put this result behind them. With successive home games after that fixture, the chance to secure more valuable points lies ahead.
Livingston: Kelly, Crighton, Gallagher, Halkett, De Vita (Cadden 69), Longridge, Byrne (Buchanan 77), Pittman, Mullin, Mullen (Millar 76), Todorov
Subs not used: Maley, Knox, Sinclair, Lithgow
East Fife: Hurst, Kane, Page, Kerr, Brown, Duggan (Insall 90), Smith, Curran, Robinson (Slattery 89), Penrice, Paterson
Subs not used: Trialist, Reilly, Austin, Cooper
Goals: Kerr (85)
Referee: Grant Irvine
Match Report: Calum Brown