Livi extended their lead at the top of League One to 11 points with a comfortable victory over one of their promotion chasing rivals on a terrible day for playing football.
A mixture of sleet and snow fell throughout the afternoon made conditions challenging for players and supporters alike. The Lions welcomed Mark Millar into the starting eleven for his home debut since signing from Queen of the South during the transfer window, with Raffa De Vita dropping to the bench. Bulgarian striker Nikolay Todorov found a place alongside the Italian after arriving at the club on loan from Hearts for the remainder of the season.
The match began in spectacular fashion, with the home side taking the lead after only 43 seconds. A long throw in was flicked on by Sean Crighton across the six yard area and Liam Buchanan had the simple task of stroking the ball into the empty net at the far post.
It was exactly the start that the home fans needed to help settle any nerves. Livi took confidence from the early strike and looked to add to the score at every opportunity. Only two minutes later, an excellent run by Danny Mullen almost led to a second goal but his low pass to Buchanan inside the area was intercepted by Dougie Hill and knocked out for a corner.
The visitors, clearly affected by conceding so early, struggled to come to terms with the slippery surface and wet weather. The Lions, on the other hand, were the hungrier of the two sides and closed down the opponents all over the pitch. It took until the 18th minute before City had their first serious attempt on goal, but Andy Jackson’s effort flew harmlessly over Liam Kelly’s crossbar.
Shortly afterwards, Nicky Cadden, hugging the left touchline throughout, knocked the ball beyond his defender and won a corner. Mark Millar’s curling cross fell into a dangerous area but Graeme Smith clutched the ball to his chest to keep the score at 1-0.
But The Lions were not to be denied for long. In the 25th minute, another excellent delivery by Millar was beautifully headed into the top corner by Craig Halkett to double Livi’s lead. The visiting keeper kept his team in the game as the half continued, saving firstly from Cadden and then Buchanan and Pittman in quick succession. The home side deservedly led 2-0 at the interval, after a commanding first half performance.
HT Livingston 2-0 Brechin City
The second half began in the same manner as the first half ended, with Livi dominating possession and pressing for more goals. But any chance of complacency in the home ranks was removed when, after 54 minutes, the visitors came close to reducing the deficit. Gareth Rodger headed towards goal but the ball missed the target.
However, only two minutes later, any doubts about the final outcome were finally laid to rest. Great interplay between Millar, Crighton and Pittman brought The Lions into the penalty area. The ball fell to Cadden and his goal-bound effort was turned into the net by Scott Pittman to give the home side a commanding 3-goal lead.
With 64 minutes on the clock, Livi almost added a fourth but Gallagher’s shot was saved by Smith, the Brechin keeper was playing very well despite the score. Then, with the league leaders looking to add to their tally, an in-swinging corner by Millar came off the head of a Brechin defender and hit the underside of the bar and then the post before being cleared to safety.
Manager David Hopkin took the chance to make a double substitution midway through the second half, with Mullen and Buchanan being replaced by De Vita and debutant Todorov. Shortly afterwards, Jordan Sinclair replaced Nicky Cadden and the former Hibs player looked dangerous whenever he was in possession. A flurry of cautions followed in the closing minutes as the game turned a little sour, with Brechin winning the final card count 4-2. As the match entered added time, De Vita’s low drive from 25 yards skidded across the wet surface and Smith, once again, kept the score-line respectable.
FT Livingston 3-0 Brechin City
It was an impressive display by the hosts, who brushed aside the visitors with relative ease. Brechin, who struggled with Livi’s high tempo and controlled possession all afternoon, were fortunate not to concede more goals on a day when their goalkeeper was undoubtedly their star man. The home side could point to excellent performances all over the pitch, with Pittman, Byrne and Millar dominating in midfield, and a team display that oozed confidence throughout the match.
There is no rest or shortage of big games for The Lions, with a visit to second placed Alloa in a top-of-the-table clash next Saturday. A win for the leaders against their closest rivals would increase the belief that the dream of promotion is getting closer to becoming a reality.
Livingston: Kelly, Crighton, Gallagher, Lithgow, Halkett, Byrne, Pittman, Millar, Cadden (Sinclair 78), Mullen (Todorov 66), Buchanan (De Vita 66)
Subs not used: Maley, Longridge, Knox, Mullin
Goals: Buchanan (1), Halkett (29), Cadden (56)
Brechin City: Smith, McLean, C.O’Neil (Dale 61), Fusco, Hill, Rodger, Lynas, Graham, Jackson (Caldwell 70), Watt, Love
Subs not used: P.O’Neil, Ford, McCormack, Dods
Referee: Alan Newlands
Match report: Calum Brown