Livingston 2-1 Alloa Athletic

Livi were crowned Ladbrokes League One champions as they saw off closest challengers Alloa Athletic at a jubilant Tony Macaroni Arena to secure an immediate return to the Championship.

The Lions went into the match knowing a point would be enough to secure the title but ensured they did so in style with a third victory in four meetings with Jim Goodwin’s side this season.

Livi boss David Hopkin made two changes to his starting line-up from the win at Brechin as Josh Mullin and Jackson Longridge came in for Nicky Cadden and Sean Crighton.

There were early signs of nerves from the Lions on such a crucial day as the Wasps came within millimetres of taking the lead twice in the first five minutes. First, Jordan Kirkpatrick’s sliced effort deceived Liam Kelly and looped against the far post. The same post came to the rescue again moments later when Dylan Mackin rose highest but planted his header against the woodwork.

The visitors were dominating early on and came close again on seven minutes when Kelly made a fine save to deny Kevin Cawley before Greig Spence sent the rebound over the North Stand.  Livi finally mounted a threat and Mullin forced Neil Parry into his first save on 12 minutes with a powerful drive from 25 yards that the Alloa keeper saved well.

Another big chance came the Lions’ way two minutes later as a fine move ended with Scott Pittman squaring for Rafa De Vita but he couldn’t get on the end of the ball and the Wasps cleared for a corner. From that very corner, the Lions did make the breakthrough in spectacular style as the ball fell to Pittman fully 35 yards out and he sent a majestic first-time strike high past Parry into the roof of the net to get the party started among the home crowd.

Livi were galvanised by Pittman’s moment of magic and began to dominate proceedings, Danny Mullen next to try his luck from distance with an effort that flew wide of target. Alloa were forced into an early change as Kirkpatrick limped off on 21 minutes to be replaced by Jon Robertson. Mullen then had another go from distance, curling an effort just wide after an exquisite first touch.

Given the frenetic start made by both sides it was hardly surprising that the game fell into a bit of a lull as the half wore on. Scott Pittman picked up a yellow card for a foul on Cawley right on the interval as Livi went in with a one goal lead, standing 45 minutes from the title.

Half-time: Livingston 1-0 Alloa Athletic

The Lions came out fighting in the second half as they looked to seal the deal and took a big step towards doing so within four minutes of the restart as they doubled their lead when Longridge burst down the left before cutting inside onto his right foot and curling the ball home off the far post.

Knowing only an almighty collapse would deny them the title now, Livi began to play with much more freedom and Mullin almost burst through on goal soon after but the ball just skipped away from him as he tried to bring it under control.

The Lions were handed a golden chance to kill the game off once and for all on 66 minutes when Mullin was brought down in the box and ref Greg Aitken pointed to the spot. Unfortunately Liam Buchanan’s recent penalty jinx continued as he fired his spot kick against the base of the post before illegally firing home the rebound before anyone else had touched the ball.

That miss proved extra costly barely 60 seconds later as the Wasps pulled one back when a corner from the right was met by Mackin who headed home from close range. Livi then made a couple of changes in quick succession as Cadden replaced Mullin before Crighton came on for goal hero Longridge.

Alloa pushed for an equaliser that would set Livi’s nerves on edge and came close on 84 minutes when Calum Waters tried his luck with a free kick from 25 yards that Kelly saved comfortably. Up the other end, Cadden fired in a free kick from slightly further out which Parry did well to save.

Livi’s final change came on 88 minutes as Nikolay Todorov replaced Mullen before Kelly made a fine low save to deny Spence in injury time.

The final whistle came soon after, confirming the Lions as League One champions for a third time. The celebrations went on long (and I mean LONG!) into the night as fans and players alike hailed the club’s instant return to the second tier 11 months after their agonising play-off defeat.

Livingston: Kelly, Longridge (Crighton 75), Lithgow, Gallagher, Halkett, Byrne, De Vita, Pittman, Mullin (Cadden 72), Buchanan, Mullen (Todorov 89)
Subs not used: Maley, Jacobs, Knox, Sinclair
Goals: Pittman (19), Longridge (49)

Alloa Athletic: Parry, Taggart, Waters, Marr, Graham, Holmes, Cawley (McCluskey 69), Hetherington, Spence (Longworth 74), Kirkpatrick (Robertson 21), Mackin
Subs not used: McDowall, Martin, McDonald, Hoggan
Goals: Mackin (67)

Referee: Greg Aitken
Att: 1,099
Match Report: Andy Crawford

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