Livi suffered their first home defeat of the season after a poor display that gave Albion Rovers a deserved victory.
The home side struggled all afternoon to find any form. It was a frustrating and subdued performance that lacked tempo and creativity, with the players looking laboured in possession.
The Lions started with a back three of Crighton, Halkett and Longridge, hoping that Josh Mullin and Nicky Cadden would pose problems for the visiting defence. The opening 15 minutes saw scrappy attempts from both teams, with miscued shots and half chances setting the tone for a game that lacked quality throughout.
McBride and Willis had efforts for Rovers that failed to trouble Kelly while the home side’s Longridge snatched at a chance and Mullen fired a shot from distance that Ross Stewart watched fly well past his post. With 17 minutes on the clock, Livi should have taken the lead. Firstly, Stewart dropped Crighton’s cross but Josh Mullin’s follow-up shot was off target.
The Lions were made to pay a minute later when the men from Coatbridge went ahead with a goal that the Livi defence ought to have prevented. They backed off into their own penalty area, allowing Steven Boyd to slide the ball past Kelly into the far corner of the net. The visitors looked to take the game to Livi and continued to look dangerous on the attack, exploiting the gaps that the generous defending was offering.
Albion Rovers fielded two players with the same name, Ross Stewart, with one in goal and the other on the right hand side of midfield. They used that combination effectively throughout the first half with goal kicks directed by the keeper to his namesake. The pair combined regularly, with the tall outfield player repeatedly out-jumping Jackson Longridge in the air. That tactic almost doubled Rovers’ advantage after 23 minutes when a head flick played in Boyd once again but his shot missed the target when he seemed certain to score.
Shortly afterwards, it was the Rovers’ defence that breathed a huge sigh of relief. Danny Mullen rounded the goalkeeper but his shot, from an acute angle, came back off the post and the danger was cleared. Speculative efforts from Mullin and Cadden didn’t seriously threaten the visiting defence and The Lions went into the break a goal down.
Half Time: Livingston 0-1 Albion Rovers
The home support were expecting better in the second half and the defence reverted to a back four, with Miller slotting into the right back position and Longridge moving to his more familiar left back role. Rovers seemed content to give their hosts possession of the ball and looked to break on the counter attack at every opportunity.
Both sides almost scored a few minutes after the restart, with Stewart coming close for Rovers and Liam Buchanan firing wide for Livi. The visitors made a defensive substitution while The Lions replaced Cadden with Watt in an attempt find more accurate passes.
Even so, and despite increasing their possession of the ball, the home side looked heavy-legged and took too many touches, allowing the Rovers’ defence to cope easily. But with 20 minutes remaining, Livi found themselves 2-0 down. Danny Mullen gave the ball away sloppily and the visitors launched a fast break that resulted in Ryan Wallace finding himself through on goal.
The striker was denied by Liam Kelly who made a great one on one save, but unfortunately for the hosts, the ball rebounded perfectly into the path of Wallace who slotted the ball into the empty net. Livi’s response was to bring on Knox and Carrick for Mullin and Pittman, but Wallace almost scored again to put the game out of sight.
The home side were increasingly desperate in their attempts on goal but came close to reducing the deficit with 10 minutes to play. An excellent corner from Liam Watt found Craig Halkett, but his header struck the bar.
With the game coming to a disappointing end, Livi were awarded a soft penalty in the final minute. Referee Charleston pointed to the spot, surprising everyone in the stadium, after Buchanan fell to the ground under a tame challenge. The striker took the spot-kick himself, sending the keeper the wrong way for a consolation goal.
Full Time: Livingston 1-2 Albion Rovers
Livingston: Kelly, Miller, Longridge, Byrne, Halkett, Mullin (Carrick 73), Cadden (Watt 64), Pittman (Knox 72), Buchanan, Crighton, Mullen
Subs not used: Maley, Sinclair, Neill, Ogilvie
Goals: Buchanan (90 pen)
Albion Rovers: R.Stewart, Reid, McBride, Davidson, R.Dunlop, M.Dunlop, Ferry, Boyd (Fisher 74), Wallace, Willis, Stewart (Turnbull 52)
Subs not used: Potts, Archibald, McCann, Gilmour, Shields
Goals: Boyd (18), Wallace (70)
Referee: Craig Charleston
Match Report: Calum Brown