Livingston 1 – 1 Falkirk

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Livi produced a battling performance to claim a well-earned point against title-chasing Falkirk but remain in the relegation play-off spot in the Ladbrokes Championship.

The Lions came into the game on the back of the disappointing result at Ibrox and boss David Hopkin made three changes to his side as Craig Halkett, Liam Buchanan and Danny Mullen came in for Morgyn Neill, Kieran Gibbons and Gary Glen.

The Bairns arrived in West Lothian unbeaten in 11 games and firmly in a three-way battle for the Championship title and started the bright of the two sides with a brave block from debutant Halkett denying Will Vaulks after eight minutes. Peter Grant then came even closer with a powerful header that flew inches wide of Marc McCallum’s right hand post.

Livi forced their first chance on 18 minutes when Mullen controlled a long ball forward and teed up Buchanan but his shot flew high over the bar. Falkirk’s Luke Leahy then tried his luck with a free kick from 20 yards which bent wide of goal.

The Lions’ next chance came on 26 minutes when a cross from Declan Gallagher was met by a looping header from Jordan White that had Danny Rogers scurrying but dropped the wrong side of the bar. The Bairns came close again on the half hour when Aaron Muirhead let fly with a superb volley that clipped the bar on its way over.

Falkirk had an appeal for penalty on 37 minutes when John Baird went down under pressure from Halkett but nothing was given, other than a corner. Up the other end, Mullen raced clear on the left before cutting inside and squaring for White but his tame effort was blocked and the Falkirk defence was able to clear. Mark Kerr then picked up a yellow card for a cynical foul on Mullen to break up a Lions counter-attack.

Just as it was looking like the teams would head in at the break all square, Livi were hit with a sucker punch on 44 minutes when Gallagher misjudged a ball over the top which allowed Craig Sibbald to get in behind and prod his effort under the advancing McCallum to break the deadlock and sent Falkirk in at the interval with a lead.

Half-time: Livingston 0-1 Falkirk

Livi made the best possible start to the second half as they drew level on 51 minutes. A long throw from the right found its way through to Gallagher at the back post and when his header was parried by Rogers, Buchanan was perfectly placed to slam the loose ball high into the net to make it 1-1.

Falkirk bounced back quickly to the loss of the equaliser and came close when Leahy escaped his man to break free down the left but his shot was tame and McCallum saved comfortably. Leahy then tried his luck with a free kick which flew high over the bar and landed perfectly on a shelf at the back of the North Stand – I doubt he could have done that again if he tried!

The Bairns were building up a head of steam now and Kerr was the next to go close with a volley from the edge of the box that cleared the crossbar. Peter Houston then made a double change as Blair Alston and Kevin O’Hara came on for Lee Miller and Conor McGrandles. The visitors then passed up a huge chance to regain the lead when a poor headed clearance fell perfectly for ex-Livi defender Paul Watson but he fired unsurprisingly high over the bar.

Livi boss Hopkin then made his first change as Myles Hippolyte took the place of Mullen. The Lions were reliant on a wonder save from McCallum to preserve their lead, though, as a cross from the left was met by a powerful downward header by Kerr which the Livi stopper did brilliantly to push away. Up the other end, Hippolyte worked himself into a shooting position but his low drive failed to trouble Rogers.

Livi had a huge let-off when a low cross found O’Hara unmarked with the goal at his mercy only for the ball to spin up off his heel and over the bar. The Lions broke up the other end and Stanton made a great run to find space but his cross was just too high for Hippolyte – Buchanan’s return pass was overcooked and the chance was gone.

A final Falkirk change, as Bob McHugh replaced Sibbald, proved the last action of note as Livi held on for a precious point.

Full-time: Livingston 1-1 Falkirk

The result sets the Lions up nicely for this weekend’s crucial trip to Dumbarton as the fight to avoid relegation to League One continues.

Livingston:  McCallum, Halkett, Gallagher, Longridge, Gordon, Buchanan, Mullen (Hippolyte 67), Fotheringham, Pittman, Stanton, White
Subs not used: Jamieson, Sheerin, Currie, Knox, Glen, Neill
Goals: Buchanan (50)

Falkirk: Rogers, Leahy, Muirhead, Watson, Vaulks, McGrandles (O’Hara 63), Baird, Sibbald (McHugh 87), Kerr, Grant, Miller (Alston 63)
Subs not used: Tokarczyk, McCracken, Smith, Tawio
Goals: Sibbald (44)

Referee: George Salmond
Att: 1,536
Match Report: Andy Crawford

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